I’ve started thinking about how I’m going to write up the stories of Portsmouth’s World War One Heroes. So far I have analysed something like 2,672 soldiers, and almost 300 sailors and Royal Marines, out of a total of more than 5,000 servicemen and 3 women.
There are so many names and stories, its really difficult having any idea knowing where to start. In an ideal world, I would write a full chapter on all of them. But with space constraints, I’m really interested in hearing what people would like to read about, or which stories you think are really important to ‘get out there’. Particularly with the 100th anniversary of the start of the war coming up in 2014.
- The Portsmouth Pals – the 14th and 15th Battalions of the Hampshire Regiment, recruited solely from Portsmouth men who volunteered after the start of the war to join Kitcheners Army. Their story has never really been told before, but by my reckoning over 300 men were killed serving with both Battalions
- Portsmouth’s Commonwealth Soldiers – how did young men from Portsmouth end up serving with the Imperial Armies? According to my research 43 men died serving with the Australian, African, New Zealand, Canadian and Indian Forces.
- Lt-Col Dick Worrall – a Portsmouth man who had served in the ranks of the British Army, emigrated to America and joined the pre-war US Army, then once war was declared went to Canada and volunteered. He was quickly commissioned, and ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel, and the holder of a DSO and Bar and MC and Bar – a remarkable story.
- The first day on the Somme. An iconic moment in British military history, when 18 Portsmouth men were killed.
- The Old Contemptibles. 156 men from Portsmouth were killed in 1914, before Britain had fully mobilised. Hence many of them were probably regular servicemen.
- The Royal Flying Corps. Four young men from Portsmouth were killed serving with the Royal Flying Corps, at least two of them either in flying accidents or in action.
- The Tank Corps. The First World War saw the advent of the tank as a major force in warfare. 10 Portsmouth men died serving with thee Tank Corps.
- Brothers in Arms. Many families lost more than one son in the war – many lost two, some three, and one poor family lost four sons in action. I would like to take a look at this element of the human cost.
- Gallipoli. At least 91 men from Portsmouth were killed in Gallipoli, a campaign beset by disaster which has perhaps not had as much attention through history as it should have.
- Mesopotamia. 94 men from Portsmouth were killed in Iraq, many at the disastrous siege of Kut in 1916. Many more were captured, and suffered terribly in captivity. Again, I feel that its a campaign that has been much ignored in history, particularly given how the British Army has found itself fighting in Iraq at least three times since!
- Oddities. I would like to be able to write about the interesting little stories that perhaps don’t fit in anywhere else, or don’t quite warrant a chapter on their own. Like the elderly Royal Engineer who was sent on grave registration duties after the armistice, and died after drowning in a Canal in Belgium.
- Prisoners of War. We don’t ever hear much about WW1 Prisoners of War, yet at least 12 servicemen from Portsmouth died in Germany whilst being held as prisoners.
Any thoughts at all would be very welcome!
- Austrlian war dead buried in Portsmouth (dalyhistory.wordpress.com)
- Why did Britain need control of the Dardanelles in ww1 (wiki.answers.com)
- Why was ww1 fourght in trenches (wiki.answers.com)