Southern Co-operative plans memorial in Portsmouth to staff who died in world wars

REMEMBRANCE Gareth Lewis at the wall beside a pathway leading to Victoria Park  Picture: Malcolm Wells (142049-9291)
REMEMBRANCE Gareth Lewis at the wall beside a pathway leading to Victoria Park Picture: Malcolm Wells (142049-9291)
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan with the staff of The Emirates Spinnaker Tower and a snow covered Portsmouth as a backdrop       Picture by  Malcolm Wells (180319-0933)

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A NEW war memorial to remember Southern Co-operative employees could be installed in Portsmouth city centre by the end of the year.

The city firm, which was called the Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society until 1998, wants to publicly remember its colleagues who died during the two world wars.

It hopes to put up a plaque close to the existing war memorials in Guildhall Square to remember those who died in active service and those who passed away as a result of enemy action.

A total of 13 co-operative staff who worked in the city died during the First World War and 53 colleagues lost their lives between 1939 and 1945 in the Second World War.

Gareth Lewis, monitoring and technical support manager for the North Harbour firm, has been working on the project for the past few years.

‘My interest in this came from the historical side of things,’ he said.

‘From a personal level, right back to the empire, my family has been involved in the military at a local level.

‘I have had an interest in doing research to do with my family, which is how I started looking into this.

‘Over the years I visited a number of the Commonwealth war graves of our ex-colleagues, both in this country and abroad, and have paid due respect and thanks on behalf of The Southern Co-operative’s colleagues and society members.

‘Behind each of the names on the plaque there is a story.

‘Some have been unearthed while others remain to be discovered. It’s an ambition of mine to document the stories of all the colleagues we lost in the Second World War and also, the important role that The Southern Co-operative played during this time.

‘It’s a story that deserves to be told and it is a sacrifice that must not be forgotten.’

So far, Mr Lewis has researched the workers who lost their lives and collated a chart of how old they were, where they had worked in the city, and where they died.

He is hoping to continue researching the employees and find out more information about them, and find their relatives.

n A planning application for the memorial has now been submitted to Portsmouth City Council.