THE Royal Naval Memorial on Southsea seafront is undergoing a £330,000 make-over after names on brass plaques commemorating the war dead became worn and unreadable.
Workers for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) have been cleaning it up – but the restoration will not be completed by Remembrance Day on Friday.
The News reported last year on veterans’ anger at the shocking state of disrepair the iconic memorial had fallen in to. Since March, the CWGC has spent £200,000 cleaning up the brass plaques on the curved wall behind the tall plinth and the names, which still need a lick of gold paint, are now clearly visible.
The next stage of the project, which is focused on the main tall plinth, will not start until March next year.
Peter Francis, spokesman for CWGC, said: ‘The work at the memorial is a phased programme.
‘At the moment we are tackling the lower tier and that has involved replacing paving, repointing stone work, doing masonry repairs and rebronzing the brass panels.
‘We’ve rubbed the panels down to get rid of the growth and build up of pollutants and scraped off the old lacquer.
‘Then we’ve applied a new lacquer which has seen them come up good as new.’
Mr Francis said the work has stopped ahead of November 11 because structural scaffolding needs to go up around the plinth.
He added: ‘We have decided to not start phase two until March next year when the weather improves.
‘It has cost £200,000 so far and the final phase will cost another £130,000.
‘As an organisation, we are built on a foundation of remembering the fallen and part of that process is maintaining where that remembrance takes place.
‘It’s our privilege and pleasure to be doing the work. We’ve had fantastic co-operation with Portsmouth City Council and we’ve been using a lot of local contractors as well.’
D-Day veteran Frank Rosier, 86, of Cowplain, welcomed the work. He said: ‘Last year it was in a bit of a sorry state, so I’m glad they listened to us and are sorting it out. It looks a lot better this year.
‘It’s important because it is the only place to go to remember the boys who were lost at sea who don’t have a grave.
‘It’s very good that the memorial has had work done to it to protect it for the future so the families of those men can continue to go there and remember them.’
Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘It’s important all of these memorials are properly kept up, particularly the ones that are national memorials.
‘The Royal Naval Memorial on Southsea seafront is a national memorial to remember people who died on Portsmouth-based ships at sea and have no grave.
‘It’s enormously important, not just for Portsmouth, but for the whole of the country.
‘Ninety-five per cent of our trade comes into the UK by sea and the people who defended that trade in the First and Second World Wars kept Britain going.
‘Without them we would have been starved into surrender and would have lost the war so it is essential we remember their sacrifice and the CWGC keep that memorial looking decent.’