Portsmouth’s men respond to their country’s plea

The new trackbed for the Horndean Light Railway looking south across the bridge over Southwick Hill Road, Cosham, about 1903.

NOSTALGIA: Ready and waiting, the shiny new tracks climbing Portsdown Hill

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A century ago today the residents of Portsmouth were waking up knowing that the country was at war.

Some must have thought it strange – our natural enemies were France and Spain. Had not Nelson and Wellington disposed of these with their bands of brothers a century before? Who were this German lot causing us grief, then?

No time was wasted in appealing to men to join the colours. The navy was fully manned but the army was a different matter and on the early editions of the Portsmouth Evening News of August 5 it proclaimed in large capitals: ‘YOUR KING AND COUNTRY NEED YOU’.

In the leader column, the writer asked: ‘Are you unmarried and between 18 and 30 years old, will you answer your country’s call?’

Of course they did, in their thousands.

Here we see men of Portsmouth ready to take the King’s shilling and sign on for the duration.

In the centre is a railwayman, perhaps a porter, looking for a more exciting life...