School was alma mater to many national heroes

Portsmouth Grammar School
Portsmouth Grammar School
April 11, 1960, and the Stop and Pay sign is put away on Hayling bridge.

NOSTALGIA: Hayling islanders rejoice as they’re given freedom to roam

0
Have your say

Portsmouth Grammar School is proud of its record of Old Portmuthians (former pupils) who have fought for their country in every major conflict since its foundation in the 18th century.

Amongst them are three men who were awarded the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy, the Victoria Cross.

The B11, which although considered obsolete, dived under five rows of mines in the Dardanelles to successfully torpedo a Turkish battleship in 1914.

The B11, which although considered obsolete, dived under five rows of mines in the Dardanelles to successfully torpedo a Turkish battleship in 1914.

The current Local Heroes exhibition at Gosport Discovery Centre highlights one of them, Commander Norman Holbrook, who was the first submariner to win the VC.

Holbrook was born in Southsea in 1888 and, with his brothers attended Portsmouth Grammar School, leaving at the age of 13 after passing the entrance examination for HMS Britannia.

Officers were trained on two hulks on the River Dart. Holbrook joined the submarine service in 1910 at a time when membership of the new elite force was very competitive and only the very best candidates were successful.

In 1913, he assumed his first command, the petrol-driven A13, based at HMS Dolphin, Gosport.

With the outbreak of war a year later, Holbrook was commanding the B11 which had been built in 1906 but was already considered old and obsolete.

On December 13, 1914, B11 dived under five rows of mines in the Dardanelles and successfully torpedoed the Turkish battleship Mesudiye.

Treacherous currents and enemy torpedoes and gunfire did not prevent Holbrook from bringing his craft and men safely back to the Mediterranean. B11 surfaced off Cape Helles after being submerged for an incredible nine hours.

Lt. Holbrook was a national and local hero. His First Lieutenant, Sydney Winn, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and every member of the crew was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

Following his retirement from the Royal Navy, Holbrook maintained his interest in the local family printing firm, which is still in business, of which he was Chairman, before settling into farming.

During the Second World War he was recalled to debrief naval battle survivors with the rank of Commander. He died in 1976 at the age of 87.

·· The Local Heroes exhibition at Gosport Discovery Centre runs until April 9.