An ill-fated expedition

Looking down London Road circa 1903. The Horndean Light Railway tracks are on the right.  Picture: Barry Cox Collection

NOSTALGIA: Tramlines await the first cars to climb to top of Portsdown Hill

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On this day in 1740 Admiral George Anson sailed from Portsmouth with six man-o’-war and two victuallers on a voyage around the world. His mission was to disrupt or capture Spanish interests in the Pacific.

Unfortunately, the only troops made available for the voyage were 500 sick and wounded soldiers who were in hospital.

But when word reached them of the long trip, ‘all those who had limbs and strength to walk out of Portsmouth, deserted, leaving behind only as such were literally invalids, most of them being 60 and some of them upwards of 70’.

The remaining 259 men were taken on board, many on stretchers.

This military force was bolstered by newly-recruited marines, many of whom had never used a gun before.

Anson returned four years later with only one ship, the Centurion. His first act on stepping ashore in Portsmouth was to thank God for his deliverance.

Of the 1,854 original crew members who set off from Portsmouth, only 188 survived – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.