Tag Archives: portsmouth grammar school

The Post Office Rifles from Portsmouth

I’ve been doing a little bit of work on my WW1 Portsmouth War Dead database, as a bit of light relief from working on promoting my WW1 Book. I’ve been using Tim Backhouse’s eternally useful memorials in Portsmouth website to flesh out some details on the names on my list. Tim has listed pretty much every name on every kind of memorial in Portsmouth. I have been using his listing of the WW1 Cenotaph to create the bulk of my database – without his listing I would have had to do twice as much work.

Aside from the main memorials, Tim has also listed names from the plethora of other memorials around in Portsmouth. Of chief interest to me are three kinds – Company and Organisation Memorials; School Memorials; and Parish Memorials. In terms of Organisations and Companies we have names for the Portsmouth Gas Company, the Electric Company, the Passenger Transport Depot, the Police, and even Handleys, a local Department store. Schools are chiefly the local Grammar and public schools – Portsmouth Grammar School, St Johns College, Southern Grammar School for Boys and Northern Grammar School. The Parish listings are also useful too, helping me to confirm where in the city somebody came from, and sweeping up a few names that are not on the Cenotaph. Funily enough, many of the names from RC parishes have a distinctively Irish ring to them. St Johns Cathedral even has some latin sounding names – from Malta, perhaps?

Just to give an example of from one company joined up, lets take a look at the Portsmouth District of the Post Office. Four men from the Portsmouth Posties joined the 8th Battalions of the London Regiment – or, the Post Office Rifles. The London Regiment was a Territorial-only Regiment, and the Post Office Rifles are a fine example of a profession-based unit.

Rifleman A. Toleman was killed on 18 May 1915. He is buried at Bethune in France. Rifleman Victor Papworth was just 19 when he was killed on 21 May 1916, and is remembered on the Arras Memorial in France. Rifleman Thomas Brady was killed the next day, aged 20. He is buried in Barlin Cemetery. Lance Corporal Leonard Cox was killed on 20 September 1917, and is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial. Another Portsmouth man was killed serving with the Post Office Rifles, but does not seem to haved been a postie – Rifleman G Croad, who was killed on 7 June 1917 and is buried in Voormezeele. He joined the Army in September 1916, and seems to have gone to the front in January 1917, suggesting that he joined the Post Office Rifles as a replacement. As the wore drew on and the manpower situation became more acute, earlier recruiting loyalties and conventions were quietly ignored and men were sent to wherever they were needed.

The Post Office Rifles are a unique example – for Portsmouth, at any rate – of how men could join the armed forces based on their professional loyalties.

 

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Filed under portsmouth heroes, western front, World War One

Portsmouth Heroes update

Well folks, we’re nearing the finish line!

I’ve ‘finished’ over 96% of the text for Portsmouth‘s Second World War Heroes. 15 out of 18 chapters are finished, as well as the Introduction. The remaining three chapters need a bit of beefing up but then we’re done, and the work begins on proof-reading, proof-reading, and then proof-reading again!

The hard work really is proving to be in sourcing illustrations. With up to 40 illustrations up for grabs, I am in a quandry trying to illustrate the book well, but not breaking the bank in doing it. As I have written before, institutions charge an arm and a leg for reproducing their images – prohibitively high charges make it difficult, especially for those of us working on low print run, specialised books. A number of relatives have been very helpful and supplied me with some useful images, as has John Sadden the Archivist at Portsmouth Grammar School and Debbie Corner at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.

I’m going to be off out taking some pictures myself – war memorials, gravestones and local military sites. I am also going to be trawling sites like flickr looking for public domain or royalties free images I can use.

One more thing that has occured to me is that it might be an idea to get some maps drawn up – and I have absolutely no idea how to go about it, having no experience or talent in graphic design! We’re talking very basic here – black and white, basic info such as coastline, towns and cities, rivers, arrows for troops movements or perhaps plotting the location of a ship at Sea. Anyone got any ideas?

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Filed under News, portsmouth heroes

Time Team at Governors Green

Domus Dei, October 2007.

Domus Dei (Image via Wikipedia)

Well Time Team last night didn’t disappoint. Or rather, it did – but it was so disappointing from a historical point of view, it didnt disappoint my premonitions!

The expressed aim of the programme was to uncover the history of the medieval Hospital at the Governors Green area of old Portsmouth, adjoining what is now known as the Garrison Church, which has its origins as part of the Hospital complex. Known originally as Domus Dei, or God’s House, the Hospital was razed in 1540 during Henry VIII’s disolution of the monasteries. The chapel survived, however, and the adjoining land was used to build the Governors House.

The concept of a medieval hospital is very different from our image of operating theatres, accident and emergency et al. Medieval hospitals did exactly what they said on the tin – provided hospitality in a godly setting and manner. In particular pilgrims would use hospitals during their travels to shrines – such as nearby Winchester of Chichester, and places further afield such as Santiago de Compostela in Spain. They have a very rich and interesting social history, particularly in a port such as Portsmouth, a place that was so important to the defence of the realm too.

The feeling I had from the programme was that the team had not done their research properly at all. They were speculating about things that we already knew about, if only they had bothered to listen to people who tried to tell them! The geophysical survey told us everything that we needed to know, namely that there is an impressive range of buildings under Governors Green, and with some clever use of maps, documents and overlays it shouldnt take too much to interpret them, without the need for digging. I’m also surprised that they thought they could overlay an old tudor map on the current OS map without any errors at all – of course there are going to be anomalies. How you make such a cock-up in the most mapped town in the kingdom is beyond me.

What’s also disappointing, is that Time Team found plenty of interesting 18th Century finds, such as military uniform buttons and clay pipes, but these weren’t shown in the programme – probably because the aim of the programme was to look at the medieval hospital. Yet it would also have been interesting to find out more about Portsmouth’s history as a garrison town. All of the finds, incidentally, have been handed over to Portsmouth City Museums and Records Service, as the local Museum.

Predictably we also had the ubiquitous Portsmouth Grammar School kids turning up in their blazers, as always happens when anything of any significance happens in Portsmouth. You would think there aren’t any other schools in the city. A chance to involve other young people in Portsmouth’s history was missed.

So, essentially, much research, three days digging, much expertise and resources were spent telling us that what we already knew was there, was in fact, actually there all along! I’m really not sure what the programme achieved at all. It seems to be more about the programme than any kind of historical importance. Don’t get me wrong, Time Team have done some fascinating things over the years, and I used to love it when I was younger, but finding out about how the programme works behind the scenes has been kind of like meeting your idols, only to feel let down.

If anyone would like some light entertainment, Time Team at Governors Green can be watched on Channel 4 On Demmand here.

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Filed under Archaeology, Local History, Medieval history, On TV, Uncategorized

Wing Commander John Buchanan DSO DFC

Wing Commander Buchanan DSO DFC (centre)

Wing Commander Buchanan DSO DFC (centre)

Wing Commander John Buchanan, from Southsea, was one of Portsmouth’s most highly decorated senior officers of the Second World War. Born in 1918 and a former pupil of Portsmouth Grammar School, Buchanan was commissioned into the Royal Air Force as a Pilot Officer in May 1937.

Flying Wellington Bombers with 37 Squadron at the start of the war, he few on operations over Belgium and France in 1940. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 30 July 1940 for gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations. In January 1944 he was also awarded a Croix de Guerre by the Belgian Government, for operations in 1940. Later in 1940 he was posted to 14 Squadron in the Sudan, who were flying Blenheims. With 14 Squadron he also served in Egypt and Iraq.

Then after transferring to the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, he flew Beaufighters in the anti-shipping role. In 1943 he was awarded a Distinguished Service Order. This officer has participated in a very large number of sorties, involving bombing attacks against many countries occupied by the enemy. He arrived in Malta in November, 1942, and, within the next 14 days, led his squadron in 6 bombing attacks on enemy shipping. During these operations, Wing Commander Buchanan destroyed 6 enemy aircraft in combat. He is a magnificent leader whose great skill and fine fighting qualities have been of incalculable value.

By 1944 he was the Commanding Officer of 227 Squadron. He was only 24. On 16 February 1944 he was shot down off the coast of Greece while leading a section of four Beaufighters against a dredger sixty miles south of Athens. Buchanan and his Navigator managed to get into a Dinghy dropped by another aircraft, but although Buchanan seemed unharmed, he went quiet and died.

Wing Commander Buchanan is buried in El Alamein War Cemetery in Egypt. He is also remembered on the Portsmouth Grammar School Memorial.

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Filed under portsmouth heroes, Royal Air Force, World War Two