CAMPAIGNERS are calling for the remains of a sailor awarded the Victoria Cross to be recovered from under the car park of Portsmouth International Port.
Crimean War hero Thomas Reeves was among the first men honoured for their gallantry by Queen Victoria at the first Victoria Cross ceremony in 1857.
His citation read that the 26-year-old seaman came to the rescue of wounded soldiers at the Battle of Inkerman in 1854 by picking up a musket and firing on the advancing enemy until they were forced to retreat.
But despite his heroism, Mr Reeves’s remains are believed to be in a mass paupers’ grave on the site where the ferry port was expanded in the 1970s.
Some 6,000 bodies were removed from the site and taken to Kingston Cemetery before a car park and toilet block was built. But an area where Mr Reeves’s body is thought to be buried was not touched – sparking a campaign which led to a memorial plaque being unveiled in his memory at the port’s passenger terminal in 1999.
However, this has not satisfied the Victoria Cross Trust which has started an e-petition calling for the grave to be relocated.
Chairman Gary Stapleton said: ‘A Victoria Cross winner should not be just left under a car park and forgotten. The token gesture of a memorial plaque nearby is not good enough.’
The petition calls on Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock to intervene – but he fears it will be impossible to find Mr Reeves’s body as no-one knows exactly where he was buried.
He said: ‘The trouble is this guy was buried in a mass grave and no-one knows how many other bodies are down there.
‘If you exhumed it, how would you know which body is his, and who should foot the cost? Are we supposed to close the whole port to dig up the car park in the hope of finding a guy in an unmarked grave?’
Port manager Phil Gadd added: ‘I feel we have already done everything we’re supposed to do but we’ve got this new group we’ve never dealt with before asking us to do something different. I can understand what the issues are and we are willing to listen to their suggestions but I don’t know where we can go from here really.’