IN this week of solemn and thoughtful remembrance, it is particularly pleasing to report on a promise kept in relation to the condition of the Royal Naval Memorial on Southsea seafront.
This time last year, we published photographs which saddened many readers. The pictures showed that on many plaques at the memorial, the names of the dead were hardly readable.
Time, the elements, and insufficient remedial action had left the serried ranks of those we honour almost indecipherable.
At the time, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission apologised for the state of some parts of the memorial and pledged that it would be cleaned up.
That has been a long and expensive undertaking – since March, the commission has spent £200,000 cleaning up the brass plaques on the curved wall behind the tall plinth – and it will not be completely finished in time for this year’s Remembrance Day.
But the bulk of the work is done. The names, might still need to be recovered in gold paint, but they are once more clearly visible.
Work has now been suspended for the winter, which will mean that the memorial will not be masked by scaffold for this week’s ceremony.
When renovators return in March , their focus will be on the iconic central column. Another £130,000 will be spent, no little sum dedicated to restoring the structure to pristine condition. This work has not been lost on ex-servicemen.
As D-Day veteran Frank Rosier says: ‘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.’
Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, is right in noting that the structure is not just Portsmouth’s – it is the national memorial to those lost at sea in conflict.
Last year, it was in a sorry state. This year it looks a lot better. It is necessary for us to highlight problems and shortcomings, but it feels a lot better to reporting on difficulties overcome and action taken. Particularly so in this case, in this week of remembrance.