A gallant heart

Peggy Kitchener nee Byng
Peggy Kitchener nee Byng
HMS London back in Hong Kong for repairs. Here we see the hits on her port side.

NOSTALGIA WITH BOB HIND: HMS London under attack by Chinese forces

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Peggy Kitchener had an experience as a 12-year-old that was to stay with her a lifetime.

On December 5, 1940, a high-explosive bomb landed in the back of the Byng family’s house at 59, Belgrave Street, Portsmouth leaving a crater 30ft deep and 75ft across.

Mrs Byng and three of her children were going down to the cellar with Peggy behind them when there was a massive explosion, collapsing the cellar on to the family.

Mr Byng, who had been up the road, returned and was able to talk to his family. Then there was another massive explosion as a fractured gas main went up, killing Mrs Byng and three of the children.

Peggy survived, but was trapped by a fallen beam. With water rising it was a fight against time to save her. Fifteen hours later Peggy was rescued by ARP man Edwin Palmer.

The full story can be read in my book, Portsmouth – City of Gallant Hearts, available from the library.

I’m sad to report that Peggy died recently and her funeral was held yesterday. When I was researching the book, she told me her story with such dignity and calmness.

I had the feeling that she always thought it was not such a big deal and that many others were more unfortunate than her. A brilliant Portsmouth lady.

DON’T TELL HIM YOUR NAME, PIKE. Remember this classic line from Dad’s Army in 1974? It was when a U-boat captain asked for his (Pike’s) name. The captain, played by Welsh actor Philip Madoc, wanted to write down the names of his captors for use after the war. Sadly Philip recently died aged 77. He could speak seven languages and at one time was married to Hi De Hi girl Ruth Madoc.