From blitzed Portsmouth to a Somerset sanctuary

Employees from the Portsmouth engineering firm WJ Evans & Son in their new temporary home in Frome, Somerset
Employees from the Portsmouth engineering firm WJ Evans & Son in their new temporary home in Frome, Somerset
jpns-19-08-17 retro Aug 2017

Wedding - Sgt Brian Brown and his wife Shirley on their wedding day

THIS WEEK IN 1980: Parachute sergeant’s mum had premonition her son had died

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The picture on the right was taken between 1941 and 1945 in Frome, Somerset.

And its relevance to us?

Look carefully and you might recognise a relative – for many of these men were from Portsmouth.

They were employees of WJ Evans, the famous Portsmouth engineering firm which moved from the blitz-stricken city to the sanctuary of Somerset to continue producing arms and other war equipment in relative peace.

The picture is from Cynthia Evans, the daughter of WJ (William Jack) who went on to become the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, 1969-70, and who died in 1974.

Cynthia, from Cosham, says: ‘After the bombing of 1940 and 1941 my father decided the best thing would be to move the business out of the city. It was a big, thriving company which employed about 400 people. Not all of them moved to Frome, but many did.’

rw The ChinaFfleet Club''The ChinaFfleet Club in Hong Kong (San Miguel) 1968

rw The ChinaFfleet Club''The ChinaFfleet Club in Hong Kong (San Miguel) 1968

She has now been contacted by relatives of former employees in Somerset who are planning a get-together for any surviving workers or their families.

It will be held in Frome and the event will include film shot by William Evans in both the Portsmouth and Frome factories.

The company came back to Portsmouth at the end of the Second World War and the business returned to more peaceful pursuits making food packaging, brush-making machinery and precision machine tools.

If you’re interested in attending the event, write to Cynthia Evans at 50 Magdala Road, Cosham, Portsmouth PO6 2QG.

Meanwhile, the photo here of a Salvation Army funeral comes from Richard Boryer and he wants to know where it might be.

It could be Byerley Road, Fratton, with a turning into Newcombe Road.

The photographer is up high and there is a flight of steps in the left hand corner so he might have been standing on the steps that pass over the railway line to Fratton. There appears to be some entrance to the left of the banner.

RJ Banks was a butcher at 250 Fratton Road.

And the picture of the old China Fleet Club in Hong Kong stirred memories for former Chief Petty Officer Derek Ridley. He was serving in HMS Whitby in the Far East in the early 1970s when he needed a minor operation in the former colony’s British Military Hospital.

He says: ‘While there and being at a loose end I was volunteered to attend a meeting at the China Fleet Club. Not knowing what to expect, I found the main item on the agenda was the sale of the club. The motion was duly passed as the price and alternative site at the time was good. Unfortunately I never got to see the new building.’