Plan to remember Pompey Pals set for fort launch

The Russian destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov as seen from HMS Somerset in the Moray Firth

Royal Navy ship shadows a Russian destroyer

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WHEN Kitchener asked for local people to volunteer to join up to fight in World War One, Portsmouth was one of the first cities to respond.

Tomorrow, 99 years after the outbreak of the Great War, a project to commemorate those who fought in the two Pompey Pals battalions will be launched.

General Sir Henry Rawlinson suggested that men would be more inclined to enlist in the army if they knew that they were going to serve alongside their friends and work colleagues.

He appealed to London stockbrokers to raise a battalion of men from workers in the City of London to set an example.

In late August 1914, 1,600 men had enlisted in the 10th (Service) Bn Royal Fusiliers, known as the Stockbrokers’ Battalion, within a week.

Days later, on August 31, the 17th Battalion was formed in Liverpool.

Then, on September 3, Portsmouth formed 14th (Service) Battalion (1st Portsmouth), followed in April 1915 by 15th (Service) Battalion (2nd Portsmouth).

Both were formed by the Lord Mayor as a direct response to the need for men to sign up to fight.

The man behind the memorials for these men, Bob Beech, said: ‘There is no direct memorial for those who served in the two battalions, so this will attempt to put that right.

‘The Pompey Pals suffered badly in the Battle of the Somme in the late summer of 1916 and we feel the time is right to honour their memory almost 100 years after the event.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt will officially unveil two boards at the World War One Remembrance Centre tomorrow at 1pm.

Bob’s project, will also include a full memorial with the names of the men who served in the battalions, which will be put up outside Portsmouth Football Club’s Fratton Park home.

Bob added: ‘Another amusing story surrounds the fact that the 2nd Pompey Pals fought alongside the 11th Royal West Kents, drawn largely from Lewisham, one of the heartlands of Millwall fans.

‘The Germans never stood a chance!’