Catch of the day – a Second World War bomber’s engine

The Bristol Perseus propeller on the beach at Eastney
The Bristol Perseus propeller on the beach at Eastney

THIS WEEK IN 1993: ‘Despicable’ attack on Armistice Day

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Back in August 1971 a fisherman working in Langstone Harbour caught more than he bargained for.

An engine from a Second World War bomber was caught in his net. The trawler became stuck, but thanks to amateur diver Maurice Harknett and his especially-equipped boat Gina Anne, he winched up a propeller of a Bristol Perseus nine cylinder engine inscribed with the date May 25, 1939.

Bringing the engine close to Eastney beach, it took half a dozen men to carry the propeller ashore.

It was thought the British bomber had been in an air battle during the war and perhaps the main body of the aircraft crashed farther out at sea.

Mr Harknett, a member of the British Sub-Aqua Club, said there were no other parts of the plane nearby.

Does anyone know if any research was done on the engine and, indeed, what happened to it?

• Although not a local subject I thought I ought to tell you about Tommy Allsup as little seems to have been mentioned about him in the national news. He died recently aged 85.

I know there are many Buddy Holly fans who love his music and Tommy was part of Holly’s band on his final tour as the Crickets had split up.

On the night of his last gig, February 2, 1959 at the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa, Tommy and Richie Valens tossed a coin to see who would fly with Buddy to the next venue.

Tommy took a coin from his pocket and tossed it. He lost and Valens took his seat in the aircraft.

That was the day the music died as the small private plane crashed in a snowstorm shortly after take-off just after midnight on February 3, 1959, It was en-route to Fargo, West Dakota.

Tommy had given his wallet to Holly to use for ID purposes asking him to pick up any mail in Fargo.

When the wallet was found in the plane’s wreckage it was thought that Tommy was among the dead.

Tommy later went on to play with Roy Orbison and Willie Nelson.

• Some of you longer-term residents from Kassassin Street, Eastney, may remember Marilyn Cole.

She was the girl who worked in the coal office of the Portsea Co-op and became a Bunny girl in London. In 1971 she became Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Year.

Many years later she married the head of Playboy Europe, Victor Lownes, who was reputed to have started Playboy clubs in the USA.

Victor died last week at their home in London aged 88. Although there was a 20-year age gap between them, the marriage was a long and happy one.

• You might think car parking charges along Southsea seafront had been with us forever. But it was not until January 1972 that the city council debated plans to make drivers pay for the privilege.

A scheme was prepared, but not everyone was happy about it and although the recommendation was debated it was not passed.

As we know to our cost, charges were brought in at a later date.

• I doubt there’s anyone alive who remembers when an Evening Gun was fired from the Duke of York’s Bastion at the eastern end of Old Portsmouth’s fortifications.

From time immemorial it was fired at sunset and the Union Flag lowered. It announced the death of another day with a loud report echoing around Old Portsmouth and across the common. At the same time each ship in the harbour saluted by bugle as their white ensigns came fluttering down.

Sadly, in September 1931, much to the regret of residents, the ceremony ended.

Brigadier Bernard Montgomery, who was stationed in the city at the time, pleaded in vain with the War Office for its restoration.