NB lead - Mitford sisters caption says they lived at house but story says it belonged to a 
distant relative

Pitshill House.

Pitshill House.

A survivor from the Type 42 destroyer HMS Coventry tells of his experience to Prince Charles during his visit to Haslar in 1982. Portsmouth-based Coventry was sunk by Argentine Air Force A4 Skyhawks on May 25, 1982, during the Falklands war

Memories needed of the UK’s last naval hospital – Haslar

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George Tucker was born at 116, King Street, Southsea in 1929 and attended Church Street School.

During the war the family were bombed out three times. Three times. Imagine that today.

George Tucker.

George Tucker.

After the third occasion his mother, two sisters and George were all sent to live at Petworth, at Pitshill House a rambling 18th century Georgian mansion.

It was owned by Colonel Mitford a relative of the Mitfords.

When George arrived at the 56-room house with his family there was a staff of 20 with a butler, housemaids, cooks and other servants.

The family stayed there for 18 months and in that time George’s two sisters Audrey and Margery, aged 14 and 16, became maids to pay their way.

Happy children from Church Street School. George is fifth from the left and Audrey third from the right front row.

Happy children from Church Street School. George is fifth from the left and Audrey third from the right front row.

George’s father told him about the Conway Street, Portsmouth, bombing on December 23, 1940.

George says that many still think it was a late evening raid but he maintains it was just the one bomber that came over about 6pm.

His father was walking to work and said the German bomber had been hit and flew low over the city.

His father was close to the Guildhall, the plane went over his head and a few seconds later there was the loudest explosion he had ever heard.

The bomber came down among the dense, terraced housing that was Conway Street and the surrounding roads, leaving a massive crater, destroying the whole area and killing many.

George says: ‘No way was it a parachute mine. The bomber must have had the largest high explosive bomb it could carry to drop in the Dockyard.’

In the latter years of the war George had left school and went to work for the council. Part of his job was manning a lorry that at night placed red lights on the public air raid shelters and water tanks which had been built in the middle of streets.

When the men went to pick up the lamps in the morning some would have been thrown into the tanks and it was his job to retrieve them.

‘Yobbishness has always been with us,’ says George.

He continues: ‘There were three women who worked in the council depot called lamp trimmers and it was their job to prepare the lamps for us which we picked up every evening.’

George told me the story of his sister Margery’s wedding. She was engaged to an American soldier and was to be married on June 9, 1944, three days after D-Day.

The soldier was in Normandy on D+2, somewhere on the French beaches on a Landing Craft Tank and said to his commanding officer: ‘I’m supposed to be married tomorrow.’

With no further questions his commander let him go and managed to get him a trip home on a ship heading back to Portsmouth. Perhaps a hospital ship with many injured on board.

He arrived in Portsmouth, got married to Marjory the next day, and the following day returned to the beaches. Some honeymoon.

Margery was supposed to have travelled on the Queen Elizabeth to America as a GI bride, but at the last minute got cold feet and she and her new husband settled in Portsmouth.

After the war Southsea beaches, which had been closed to the public for five years, were opened up and George, a keen fisherman, used to use an old cycle wheel with the spokes taken out. A net was tied to the rim and bait placed at the bottom. In his small boat he would drop the net under the remains of the bombed Clarence Pier and pull it up every 10 minutes or so.

‘I sometime caught lobsters up to 10lb in weight,’ says George.

With the war finished George was then of an age to be called up for national service. It was March 26, 1947, and he left to join the army.

After basic training he was shipped, along with 10,000 troops, to Gibraltar but that is another story.

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