Daily Archives: 21 January, 2010

Portsmouth war dead project: News

I’ve now finished processing the list of Portsmouth’s World War Two Dead from the list on Portsmouth City Council’s website. Each name has been inputted into a database, along with their details from the Commonwealth War Graves online roll of honour. I have also done a lot of research on each person, using websites such as lostbombers, Far East Prisoners of War, RAF Web and Naval History.net.

I’ve managed to find some fascinating stories, which I have written about on my blog over the past few months. Stories of heroic deeds, medals, families, young and old, men and women, rich and poor. Men who have no grave, who are buried in Portsmouth, or who died far away from home. Men who died in famous battles, and men buried in cemeteries long forgotten. Men who served on the sea, on land and in the air. From all corners of Portsmouth.

There are a total of 2,023 names in the list. 1,027 in the Royal Navy, 539 from the Army, 319 from the Royal Air Force, 84 in the Royal Marines, 35 in the Merchant Navy and 11 in the NAAFI.

From Ordinary Seaman to Admiral of the Fleet, Private to Lieutenant Colonel, and Aircraftman 1st Class to Wing Commander. Youngest 16, oldest 73.

82 men died on HMS Hood, 60 on HMS Royal Oak, and 43 on HMS Barham. 12 Died on D-Day.

2 George Crosses, 5 BEM, 2 CBE, 1 Cross of St George (Russia), 1 DCM, 9 DFC, 5 DFM, 4 DSC, 1 DSC and Bar, 2 DSO, 5 MBE, 1 MC, 3 OBE, 35 Mentions in Dispatches and 32 DSM and 2 DSM and Bar.

113 are buried in France, 60 in Germany, 102 in Italy, 128 in the Far East and 100 in North Africa. 632 are remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common. 147 are buried in Milton Cemetery, 96 in Kingston Cemetery, and 35 in Highland Cemetery. To put that in perspective, more are buried in Milton Cemetery alone than are buried in France.

I have found some amazing stories – the Chindit, the 16 year old Para, the two brothers who died on the same plane, the submariners, the Paras, Prisoners of War, the Bomber Crew, Engineers, Sappers, Gunners, Ground Crew… all manner of men and women, of all ages, from all parts of Portsmouth, and from all walks of life. I guess the moral of this story is that war, and death, knows no distinction. Like the gravestones in War Cemeteries – all the same, row upon row.

This list was generated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the Council, in order to compile a list of names for the proposed WW2 memorial in Guildhall Square. It is clearly far from complete, however. There are many names on local war memorials that do not feature in the list and will require some further research. Also, using Geoff’s WW2 search engine has already helped me identify that there are many people who’s location is given as ‘Fratton’, and not ‘Portsmouth’, for example, and hence may have slipped the net.

So, the project is far from completed. The names that are inputted still require a lot of research, and there are potentially hundreds of other names that can be added to the list. I’m already starting to think about what to do with my findings – clearly, such a database does need to be available to the general public. I especially hope that young people may be able to use it for school projects and such like. The statistics should be able to tell us so much. I also have plenty of ideas for a website including pictures of each grave, so families may even be able to find pictures of the last resting place of their loved ones.

1 Comment

Filed under Army, d-day, Navy, portsmouth heroes, Remembrance, Royal Air Force, Royal Marines, World War Two

RFA Vessel off to Haiti

RFA Largs Bay: Haiti bound

RFA Largs Bay: Haiti bound

Hot on the heels of my article on Mulberry Harbour yesterday, the Portsmouth News today that RFA Largs Bay is set to depart for the Carribean to assist in the disaster relief effort.

The 16,000 ton RFA landing ship is normally used for supporting amphibious operations. She will be able to use her flight deck, internal dock, mexefloat pontoons and cargo crane to not only transport important supplies but to act as a platform off the coast. They have a hige vehicle deck which will be ideal for loading supplies. Essentially she will be a smaller version of the Mulberry concept of locating a base close to where assistance is needed. The ability to get cargo onto shore is important – a huge container vessel could transport thousands of tons to the area, but then getting it from ship to shore would be problematic. The other problem seems to be security: a ship based inshore will be ideal in this respect. If several similar ships could be located together, along with pontoons, landing craft and helicopters, the result would essentially be a makeshift port.

I’m a big fan of these incredibly versatile ships. I also think that this kind of operation demonstrates real and genuine international aid, much more positive and constructive than simply handing £bn’s over to states such as India and China who are rich enough to look after themselves. Disaster relief is definitely a positive by-product of having an amphibious warfare capability, and demonstrates how Defence, Foreign Policy and International Aid can and should be closely aligned.

Remember, however, that Largs Bay and her sister ships are part of a service that is under threat of being privatised.

Leave a comment

Filed under News, politics, rfa, Uncategorized