Daily Archives: 1 May, 2010

Portsmouth WW1 Dead – facts and figures so far

I have recently entered the 1,578th name from the Portsmouth First World War Memorial into my database. To give some kid of perspective, those names came from three panels on the Memorial. Those are only men from the Army, and there are two more panels of Army men to go. Given that there are also five panels of men who served in the Royal Navy, we could well be looking at more than 5,000 names in total. By comparison, 2,183 men and women from Portsmouth died in the Second World War.

Researching Portsmouth’s First World War dead has proved a lot more difficult than their counterparts from the Second World War. Many of the names on the memorial simply do not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s online debt of honour register. This is not to say that these names are bogus, it is probably more down to spelling errors or other mishaps. It’s going to take a lot of research to track them down.

Out of the 1,578 names, I have managed to track down 1,090 of them.

40 of them were killed in 1914, 130 in 1915, 235 in 1916, 267 in 1917 and 274 in 1918. 55 men died between the Armistice and 1921.

233 men were killed in Belgium, 481 in France, 7 in Germany, 12 in Greece, 11 in India, 51 in Iraq, 18 in Israel, 6 in Italy, and 55 in Turkey.

13 men were killed at 1st Ypres, 21 at 2nd Ypres, 35 at Arras, 9 at Cambrai, 4 at Loos, 73 at Passchendaele, 137 on the Somme (including 8 on the first day), 95 during the Kaiser Offensive and 104 during the 100 days offensive before the Armistice.

Particularly bad days for Portsmouth were 3 September 1916 when the 14th Hants lost 27 men in one day, and 15 September when the 15th Hants lost 21 men in one day.

15 men/boys were aged 17. The oldest recorded age is that of 55 – Private Edward Gant of the Royal Defence Corps.

423 were serving with the Hampshire Regiment, 11 in the Brigade of Guards, 17 in the Machine Gun Corps, 53 in the Royal Engineers, 6 in Royal Engineers Signals, 3 in the Royal Flying Corps, 57 in Field Artillery, 47 in Garrison Artillery, and 4 in the Tank Corps.

35 came from Buckland, 26 from Copnor, 16 from Cosham, 9 from East Southsea, 23 from Eastney, 45 from Fratton, 16 from Kingston, 65 from Landport, 12 from Mile End, 21 from Milton, 48 from North End, 4 from Old Portsmouth, 36 from Portsea, 75 from Portsmouth, 163 from Southsea, and 29 from Stamshaw.

4 Distinguished Conduct Medals, 4 Military Crosses, 3 Mention in Despatches, 13 Military Medals, and 1 Meritious Service Medal.

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Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, Uncategorized, World War One

Sergeant Charles McNamee

Sergeant Charles McNamee, 21 and from Portsmouth, was a member of one of the very first tank units in the British Army.

Although it is often thought that Tanks were first used at Cambrai, a limited number of the vehicles were used at the Somme in 1916. The Heavy Section of the Machine Gun Corps was formed to operate the Tanks, originally with four Companies, lettered from A to D. In November 1916 these were expanded to Battalion size.

Serving with D Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps Heavy Branch, Sergeant McNamee was killed on 9 April 1917. He has no known grave, and is remembered on the Cambrai Memorial. There is some confusion as to the circumstances of McNamee’s death, as the Battle of Cambrai took place in November 1917. It seems that McNamee was in fact killed at Arras, as D Battalion were engaged in this battle on 9 April 1917 – apparently they were moving up to launch an attack the next day.

Christy Campbell’s Band of Brigands tells us much about the early tank men. D Battalion’s tanks all had names beginning with D – such as ‘Die Hard’, ‘Dracula’, ‘Delphine’, ‘Daphne’ and ‘Dolly’. With a sense of humour, 2nd Lieutenant Sampson christened his tank ‘Delilah’. D Company first fought at the Battle of Ginchy on the Somme in September 1916, however only three out of 18 tanks managed to reach their objectives.

The Machine Gun Corps Heavy Branch later became the Tank Corps, and eventually the Royal Tank Regiment.

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Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, Uncategorized, World War Two

Blitz Street – Episode 2

This weeks episode of Blitz Street on Channel 4 carried on with the theme set down in the first instalment – detonating mock-up bombs in a replica 1940′s street, with eyewitness accounts and expert analysis.

This week the team explode an SC 1000 ‘Hermann’ Bomb, weighing in at 1,000 kilograms. Containing Amatol explosive, it produces more of a ‘heave’ effect than smaller bombs, which was effective at demolishing buildings. The slow-motion playback of the explosion, showing the blast wave, is incredible stuff.

Later in the programme Incendiary Bombs are tested, and also a Flammbomb. Incendiaries were used to great effect on Portsmouth in January 1941, when one lodged in th Guildhall’s ventilation shaft left to the building being burnt out. Small metal tubes packed with magnesium, they had an effect out of all proportion to their size. Flammbomb’s were much larger, but used explosives to throw burning oil over a large area – effectively an early form of Napalm. They must have been ghastly to try to put out.

The programme also focusses a lot on the devestating raid on the Coventry – the scenes of mass funerals are harrowing stuff. Yet I think it is important to remember that it is estimated that 568 people died in Coventry on that night; some suggest the toll may have been as high as 1,000. However fives years later, Historians estimate that between 24,000 and 40,000 people were killed in one night in Dresden. This is not to belittle the experiences of Coventry, London and elsewhere, but to try and give some form of context.

While the eyewitness accounts are a real insight, and its great that their experiences have been shared and recorded for posterity, I’m quite frustrated with the cotributions of the Historians – Juliet Gardner and Stephen Badsey. Their contributions feel very ‘top-down’ and conventiona. In my experience there is more to the Blitz than the ‘we can take it’ cliche and ‘roll out the barrell’. In particular, Badsey’s poor definition of ‘myth’ misleading.

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Filed under On TV, Uncategorized, World War Two