A Portsmouth sailor’s life – man and boy

Reg Mead's Union Flag-draped coffin is carried into the chapel at Portchester Crematorium.

Reg Mead's Union Flag-draped coffin is carried into the chapel at Portchester Crematorium.

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Although thousands of men have seen naval service I wonder how many can say they served 29 years and went through the Second World War, Korean War and the Suez Crisis in 1956.

Reginald Mead was a Portsmouth man from birth to death and a naval man from 1940 when he joined as a boy, until retirement in 1969 as a Fleet Chief. He lived in Portsmouth all his life, the last 35 years in Bonchurch Road, Milton.

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Reg had naval blood in him as his father served for 22 years. As a boy of 12 he was a pupil at the Royal Hospital School, Holbrook, near Ipswich. The original purpose of the school was to provide assistance and education to the orphans of sailors from the Merchant and Royal navies. Later it took boys whose fathers served or were still serving.

At that time, about 1935, it was still known as the Greenwich School as the former RHS Greenwich, at Greenwich in London, had closed in 1933 to become the Royal Naval Museum and all boys transferred to Holbrook.

On leaving Holbrook, aged 15 in July 1940, Reg would have gone to either HMS Ganges at Shotley or St Vincent in Gosport. As the war had now started, those establishments had closed to boy entrants.

Instead, recruits went to the Isle of Man to HMS St George. This is where Reg took up his naval training in earnest and learnt so much that would hold him in good stead in his coming career.

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He was made Boy 1st Class on January 1941 and passed out in February 1942 for further training as an electrician. From that time everything that Reg did was classed as ‘exemplary’ and ‘very good’.

His first ship was the heavy cruiser HMS Frobisher, which he joined on February 11, 1942. He was still serving in her during Operation Neptune, D-Day, when she was a member of Gunfire Bombardment Support Force D allocated to Sword Beach. Her guns scored a direct hit on the Grand Bunker at Ouistreham.

After the war Reg spent his time around the world serving in many different classes of ship from carriers to cruisers and destroyers. He was a member of the Normandy Veterans’ Association. Incidentally, the association is formally disbanding on November 21 because of dwindling numbers.

When serving in HMS Concord during the Korean war, one of her guns took a hit putting it out of action. Reg worked for 24 hours to get the gun operational again.

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After leaving the service Reg put his electrical skills to more good use. June, his wife of 60 years who was a nurse at St Mary’s, Milton, obtained a position for Reg maintaining and servicing dialysis machines.

Reg died aged 89 three weeks ago and his funeral was held at Portchester Crematorium attended by many family, friends and naval veterans. The service was read by retired naval padre Colin Noyce of St Ann’s Church in the naval base. Many of his family now living in Australia sent their condolences.

Reg was taken to the service in a hearse drawn by two beautiful horses which left from his home in Milton and was drawn the full length of Portsea Island and along the A27 to Portchester.

The service ended with Reveille and Last Post played by a Royal Marines bugler.

A wake was held at Reg’s local, the Thatched House at Milton Locks.

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