Portsmouth WW2 dead research – the next step? Thoughts please!

So i’ve finished posting up my analysis of the men and women from Portsmouth who died during the Second World War. And over previous months I have posted up thousands of stories, of medal winners, brothers, special forces, senior officers, men involved in famous battles, and other historical points of interest.

But… what next?

Having spent about 9 months researching these 2,000+ names, I’m inspired even more by their stories, their experiences and their sacrifices. And there are so many stories to tell – even the ones that are, on the surface, unglamorous – they are still stories of a life lost, a family bereaved. I think they deserve to be told, and compiled properly so people can access them, and find out about their ancestors, or even add information where I may have dropped off! And not only that, but it gives a unique insight into life and society in wartime Portsmouth.

I’m thinking along a couple of lines…

1) Writing up a selection of interesting stories, based on the blog posts that I have made, about medal winners, commanders, interesting stories, and in broader terms about specific battles. The idea would be to pick a handful of men and women, whose stories would represent their peers.

2) A full reference book containing all of the names, along with their details from my database. I’m not sure if this has been done elsewhere, but its an interesting concept and would be like the National roll of WW1, but more detailed. Maybe its even something that could be rolled out to other cities too?

3) An online, searchable database, that could contain photographs, links, references, etc… almost like a wiki

All of these ideas are very much at the thinking stage, and all depend on time, funds, feasability, and not to mention whether any publishers would take on the book ideas, and if my technical skills can reach to web design!

But I would be very interested to know what you guys, my readers, think – especially those of you who know much more about writing, publishing, web design etc than I do!

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20 Comments

Filed under portsmouth heroes, site news, World War Two

20 responses to “Portsmouth WW2 dead research – the next step? Thoughts please!

  1. How about something concerning the civilians directly connected to the war? Not about people in factories or such, but what about the nurses,the reporters (if any), the NAAFI girls serving tea, the Red Cross/Salvation Army ladies (or the British equivalent thereof; I’m a bloody Yank whose memory is misfiring at the moment)? I’m a strong supporter of the WASP pilots who received very little notice here in the States, yet flew planes that they wouldn’t be able to touch for another 25 years. Thank you!

  2. James Daly

    Hi John, its an interesting suggestion. Bob Hind, a nostalgia columnist in the Portsmouth News, has recently published a book about Portsmouth’s WW2 civilian casualties, in a similar vein to what I have done for the military fallen. In terms of civilian life in Portsmouth during the war, two of my colleagues have written very good books on this subject – Andrew Whitmarsh ‘Portsmouth at War’, and John Steadman ‘Portsmouth Reborn: Destruction and Reconstruction 1941 to 1974′. Both cover life in wartime Portsmouth quite comprehensively. I would love to research and write about the civilian side of the war, but in all honesty its been covered very well already, unless there are some new unused sources out there or perhaps a specific subject that hasnt been looked at before.

    • James- Thank you for the kind and VERY thorough reply. Did you or any of the other authors cover the formation and deployment of the area’s Home Guard? (My apologies, I’ve only been scanning your entries for right now, as I’m involved in another project concerning the US Navy for a discussion board over here. I have full intentions to read all of your entries at length in a few months.) Other than that, all I can think of would be the involvement of foreign troops, more so the Commonwealth and “Free” forces (Poles, French, etc.) than us overpaid Americans. Especially the Poles – I have a soft spot for them, having grown up in Chicago, the 2nd largest Polish community in the world! If all that has been covered, unless there is some connection to the intelligence/espionage community, especially related to Ultra, I’m afraid I’m fresh out of ideas. Sorry!

  3. James Daly

    Its funny you should mention the home guard John, my grandfather was in the 17th (Hants) Bn on the Home Guard prior to joining up in 1942. I have tried to do some research on the Portsmouth Home Guard but the records are very fragmented.

    There are some interesting records about black GI’s in Portsmouth – there was a field bakery in cosham where many of them worked. I’ve heard from people who were around at the time that the locals did not care for segregation and would stand up for the Black GI’s.

    It would be interesting to find out more about ‘free’ forces in Portsmouth, I suspect there will be quite a presence as many of the free naval ships would have visited Portsmouth at some time.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your article, and it passed some time at the end of my shift :)

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  5. Graham P

    My father was a member of Portsmouth Dockyard Home Guard in the 1940s. I don’t know much about it; he wasn’t particularly proud of having done it and turned down the medal. he joined the Dockyard HG because he worked there and 4 hrs T/O after duty. He was a dockyard apprentice. Supposedly he was a sniper, yet he was turned down for the RAF on his eyesight! He once was in a competition with the other forces and the police in a firing exercise and was in a bombed house. He took a step back and slipped, falling down through the broken floor to the ground level. He uasd to talk al lot about teh war but unfortunately he died in 1990 and didn’t write much down and I can only remember the briefest of details.

    he would cry to see what successive governments have done to the once-mighty, proud and invincible Royal Navy!

    • James Daly

      Hi Graham, thank you for sharing your very interesting story. My Grandfather served in the Portsmouth Home Guard until 1941 when he joined the Army. I also come from a family where many of my relatives worked in the Dockyard over the years, so its certainly something I can relate to.

  6. Jack V Candy

    I recollect a news item describing the installation of panels listing the names of civilians killed in WW2 at Portsmouth- Please give details.

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