Portsmouth Naval Base’s revamp stun veteran sailor Les, 90

Les Wills on the new Jetty with Capt Iain Greenlees, left, and WO Dave Pottle
Les Wills on the new Jetty with Capt Iain Greenlees, left, and WO Dave Pottle

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A VETERAN sailor who served on aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable in the Second World War has been stunned by the £100m revamp of Portsmouth Naval Base ahead of the arrival of the navy’s new supercarriers.

Les Wills relived his wartime tales on Indefatigable when he went to see the dockyard’s new carrier facilities.

Les Wills when he was serving in HMS Indefatigable

Les Wills when he was serving in HMS Indefatigable

The 90-year-old looked over the new Princess Royal Jetty, which will welcome the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth later this year.

He said: ‘It’s absolutely incredible and marvellous what they’ve done here; I can’t believe it’s the same place I helped fit out HMS Indefatigable back in 1944.’

Les first came to Portsmouth in November 1944 as a young seaman after joining the navy the year before. He sailed out on Indefatigable as part of the largest task forces of British ships ever assembled. The ship was one of more than 200 warships and 500 aircraft that sailed to the Far East to fight the Japanese.

He said he was horrified at the Japanese tactics, adding: ‘The Kamikaze attacks started and we were shocked that they believed that if they died in action they would be serving their Emperor.

‘With a pilot in a guided bomb, the chances of hitting our ships were that much greater, it was frightening.’

After the war Les remained in the Royal Navy for much of the 1950s, where he served in Portsmouth as a boat’s coxswain in the city’s dockyard.