Boat on the beach was a strange sight 60 years ago

Geoffrey Pitman's 1952 picture of a hovercraft coming up the beach at Eastney
Geoffrey Pitman's 1952 picture of a hovercraft coming up the beach at Eastney
It would take  someone of the age of 55-plus to remember this scene along Commercial Road at the junction of Church Street.

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Geoffrey Pitman recently discovered this picture in a drawer – a photograph he’s certain he took 60 years ago.

If his memory is correct it was 1952 and he was strolling along the beach at Eastney when this ‘strange boat’ appeared and roared up on to the beach in a shower of shingle.

Geoffrey, 79, of Carisbrooke Road, Rowner, Gosport, was a young aircraft artificer apprentice in the Fleet Air Arm and was home on leave at Essex Road, Milton.

He says: ‘I was walking along the beach at Eastney, not far from the Royal Marines Barracks, when I was suddenly confronted with this boat coming up on the beach right in front of me.

‘I’d never seen anything like it before. I first saw it way out in the Solent coming from the Isle of Wight and it got bigger and louder until it came up the beach about 30 feet in front of me.

‘Having my camera with me I jumped at the opportunity and took this photograph, which has been lost in a drawer for 60 years.’

The SRN2 could well have been undergoing sea trials for a cross-Solent service which eventually started more than a decade later.

Southdown Motor Services and Westland Aircraft ran the SRN2, a 48-seat craft, between Eastney and Ryde in 1963-64.

This experimental service was a forerunner to the route used today between Southsea and Ryde.