Colourful character and heroic soldier dies aged 94

Alan Sanger and his cousin Audrey (with their backs to the camera) are in the centre of this historic blitz picture taken at Fratton.

Bomb site boy is revealed, 76 years after blitz on Portsmouth

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I wonder how many of you remember the film Thunderbirds Are Go, one of the first large-screen adaptations of a television puppet show?

You may remember that as the credits went up at the end of the film there was a close-up of a colour sergeant of the Royal Marines Band at Deal in Kent. The band then began marching around the parade ground playing the Thunderbirds theme music.

The Royal Marine in question was Colour Sergeant Charlie Bowden, who was born in a house outside the main gate of Eastney Barracks and within earshot of bugle calls from within.

Coming from a Royal Marine family in which his father, both his grandfathers, three uncles and a brother served, Charlie joined as an HO (Hostilities Only) marine in April 1940.

Charlie, who has died aged 94, had a colourful career which saw him escape from a PoW camp in his pyjamas and being shot at by a sentry.

He and 139 others escaped from Crete in 1940 in a landing craft which ran out of fuel and was assisted on its passage by two sails made out of blankets. They eventually made it to the North Africa coast.

Post-war, he was promoted to Royal Marines Corps Senior Drum Major, taking a leading role in 12 Royal Tournaments, five Beating Retreat ceremonies and six Edinburgh Military Tattoos.

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