COMMENT: A true hero remembered in the most fitting way

Like it or not, Portsmouth and much of the surrounding area is a monument to war.

From the Palmerston forts on Portsdown Hill to Henry VIII’s castle at Southsea, via the old Battle of Britain airfield at Tangmere, near Chichester, this region is home to permanent reminders of our turbulent recent and not-so-recent past.

It is all down to geography of course: a wonderful natural harbour with a narrow, easily-defended entrance, and our proximity to the European mainland.

Portsmouth is still the home of the Royal Navy and because of that once garrisoned tens of thousands of soldiers ready to be taken by sea to war, so many of them to their deaths.

We have a proud military history and we are good at displaying, and capitalising on, the best bits – HMS Victory, Warrior, Mary Rose, the D-Day Museum, Royal Navy Submarine Museum. The list goes on.

While these grand exhibits do a superb job as history lessons, we often forget the myriad individual stories behind those who fought and died, survived or were scarred for life.

Those who died have their names engraved on the naval war memorial on Southsea Common or at the cenotaph off Guildhall Square. But, sadly, there are so many they tend to become a blur.

So how pleasing it is to see James Ockendon VC remembered for his incredible First World War bravery 100 years ago in a place few will fail to notice – the pavement close to the home in which he died in 1966, in Yorke Street, Southsea.

This government initiative means individual stories of heart-stopping courage and selflessness will be seen by generations to come.

As we enter the season of mass remembrance for those who died in the two world wars and subsequent conflicts, acts like this put a human face on so much tragedy.

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