My quest to name as many people pictured in photographs in the re-published Smitten City brought another success when I received a letter from Mrs Bonnie Comlay of Farlington. She told me of her late grandfather and his daughter Joyce who would have been Bonnie’s aunt had she lived.
At the top of page 15 of Smitten City – the photographic record of the war produced by The News – is a photograph of a bombed-out shop on the corner of St James’s Road and Brougham Road, Southsea, now part of what is called Somers Town.
The shop was owned by Mr George Clark, 49, and his wife Beatrice, 55. The shop, at No. 87, was so prominent on that part of St James’s Road that it became known as Clark’s Corner.
In their employ was Joyce Penfold aged 15. Her father George owned a butcher’s shop opposite Clark’s Corner at 80 St James’s Road.
On the afternoon of August 24, 1940, a customer entered the shop and made a purchase tendering a £5 note. Having no change, Joyce ran across the road to her father’s shop and asked him for change. As she did so the air raid siren sounded across the city.
George told his daughter to go to the shelter behind the shop with her brother Dan. Joyce, being conscientious, said she would just run the money back to Mr Clark and then return to keep her dad and brother company in the shelter. She never did.
As Joyce ran back across the road and entered the shop, a bomb scored a direct hit on Clark’s Corner killing Joyce, Mr and Mrs Clark and four others.
Such was the force of the blast that George Penfold waiting in the doorway of his shop for Joyce’s return was blasted to the rear of his shop only just escaping serious injury.
Coming round from his dazed state and a while later, George, along with ARP wardens, ran across the road and entered Pugsley’s wine merchants (seen on the left of the photograph) and ran down to the cellar. He thought that his daughter might have been in the adjoining cellar and obtaining an axe he attempted to knock down the adjoining wall but to no avail.
One must remember at this early stage of the war that when German bombers were sighted on their approach to the city, their bombs had more than likely been released to rain down on the civilians below.
A former bombardier on Lancasters told me that a bomber flying at 10,000ft and travelling at 300mph would release its bombs over the Isle of Wight.
The speed of the plane and the forward motion meant that bombs were landing on Portsmouth just as the sirens began to sound.
There was little time to get under cover.
There was no sign of Joyce’s remains and George along with his son Dan returned to the family home at 3 Lower Farlington Road, Farlington where George broke the news to his wife Daisy that their lovely daughter had been taken.
Another daughter, Irene, aged 20 at the time, records that her father’s face was blackened and streaked with tears he had cried for his beloved daughter.
Daisy made her way to the scene and remained on site using accommodation above the butcher’s shop.
It was not until two days later that Joyce’s body was recovered from the bombed building. Joyce was still wearing a bracelet she had always worn and George showed it to his wife to confirm Joyce’s death.
Joyce was interred in Highland Road cemetery.
Others killed in the shop at the time were Lillian Barton, Charles Payne, Kathleen Payne and Thomas Pinnock.
n If you can name some of the people pictured in Smitten City please do contact me. Thank you.