Blitz victim baby Peter honoured 70 years after death

James Taylor at his desk in his office at 116 High Street, Old Portsmouth.

Those halcyon days when pen and paper just worked!

This is Peter Halson buttoned up in his winter coat and wearing a warm hat.

It was taken shortly before his first and only Christmas in 1940.

A few weeks later, on January 10, 1941, Peter was dead.

He was recognised only by the bootee on one of his feet. He was 11 months old.

Peter was one of the 14 people who died when a German bomb fell on the house in which they were sheltering at 101 High Street, Old Portsmouth.

Yesterday, 70 years to the day of the devastating blitz which destroyed huge swathes of the city, little Peter was honoured by the brother and sister he never knew.

More than 100 people attended a service at the city's Anglican cathedral to commemorate those who died in and around that one house.

A new commemorative stone was unveiled on the cathedral green, the site of the house blown apart in the raid.

And the first to lay a wreath on the memorial were Peter's brother Roger, 62, and his sister Ann Barrett, 67 - born after their brother's death.

Their brother was not the only relative killed in 101. Among the victims were their grandparents Charles and Annie Ridge who were 58 and 50 respectively, and their aunt, 14-year-old Ruby Ridge.

In a moving address to the congregation, Roger explained how a call of nature saved the life of his mother Vera.

He said: 'My father was out fire-watching that night so my mum took baby Peter to her parents, Charles and Annie, to shelter with them and her younger sister Ruby and other local residents.

'Life and death then was a matter of tiny margins and it transpired that my mum needed the toilet so she left the basement, but her dad went upstairs with her to look after her.

'The house took a direct hit. All the people in the basement were killed as was my grandfather.

'However, my mum was blown clear of the building but buried and badly injured.

'It was only the heroic efforts of the rescue workers that saved her.'

Roger said the records showed that the victims of 101 High Street, Old Portsmouth, were buried at Kingston Cemetery, except the members of his family and he believes their remains still lie beneath the cathedral green in the foundations of their old home.

He added: 'My mum died in 1997 and she told us that my dad identified Peter, his baby son, by a booted foot.'

Money for the prominent memorial was raised by private subscription after an appeal launched through The News by Old Portsmouth resident Terry Halloran.

Ann said: 'It's wonderful that those who died here on that dreadful night 70 years ago, including the members of our family, will now be remembered forever with this beautiful memorial.'