Compare new year to a century ago...

Officers and civilians in a photo call for the retirement of Lieut-Col H.F Byrne. He is in the front row fifth from left

Officers and civilians in a photo call for the retirement of Lieut-Col H.F Byrne. He is in the front row fifth from left

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So here we are at the end of another year and it’s onward into 2012.

But what was happening in Portsmouth a century ago?

Well, on February 8, 1912 it was a century since the great Charles Dickens was born in Landport.

The Dickens Fellowship put on entertainment for the poor children of the town (as it was then) and then put on a tea for the blind. Plus £600 was raised by the Fellowship to go toward nursing for the poor.

On May 8 a century ago, Baffins Pond was opened up for the entertainment of all – it had only been used for ice skating in previous years.

In the coming months of 1912 there were to be several disasters, some national, some international.

On April 15, 1912 the RMS Titanic sank taking 1,517 souls with her. If anything good came out of the sinking, it was that all ships had to carry enough lifeboats for everyone on board rather than for just the lucky few.

On February 2, 1912 the Portsmouth-based submarine A3 sank with the loss of four officers and 10 men. A relief fund, a little like Help the Heroes today, was set up by the mayor and £5,200 was realised.

This sum was equivalent to £480,000 today, believe it or not. A further £900 (£83,000) was added to this for the dependents of the submarine B2, which sank off Dover in the October of 1912.

What generous people they must have been all those years ago.

A fleet review was also ordered by the Admiralty in 1912 and a fleet of 223 warships, including 44 battleships, five battle-cruisers and 106 destroyers anchored in Spithead. Can you imagine the size of the Royal Navy at that time?

On October 12, a new battleship, the Iron Duke, was launched in the dockyard by the Duchess of Wellington. In attendance were 60,000 people from far and wide.

By November 2 the Admiralty had ordered the mobilisation of torpedo and submarine flotillas.

Eighteen months later we were at war.

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