Stories of World War casualties brought to life as Portsmouth takes part in War Graves Week

RESIDENTS in Southsea will receive packages bringing stories of World War casualties to life as part of the first national War Graves Week.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 7:53 pm
First ever War Graves Week comes to Portsmouth. Picture: Courtesy of Commonwealth War Graves Commission © Orkney Arts, Museums and Heritage
First ever War Graves Week comes to Portsmouth. Picture: Courtesy of Commonwealth War Graves Commission © Orkney Arts, Museums and Heritage

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is launching its first national awareness week, to be held from May 21 to May 28.

War Graves Week aims to help people across the country reconnect with the World War heritage in their local area.

The story of Southsea man Ernest Stanley Cubiss will be returning to the street where his family once lived, as current residents in the area are receiving packages bringing Ernest’s story to life and encouraging them to remember him.

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Ernest Cubiss's ring. Picture: Courtesy of Commonwealth War Graves Commission © Orkney Arts, Museums and Heritage

Ernest served in the Royal Navy, but sadly died on board HMS Opal during the First World War.

However, his story lives on in the community from which he came – from the street where he lived in Southsea to the Portsmouth Naval Memorial where he continues to be remembered by CWGC.

Ernest served as an Engine Room Artificer in the Royal Navy on the warship HMS Opal during the First World War.

He joined the Royal Navy before the war after leaving school in 1908, and during the First World War served aboard ships defending the English coast.

In 1916, he fought at the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the war.

Despite spending much of the war at sea, Ernest was able to marry Florence Ethel Forster in Portsmouth in 1917.

Just six months after his marriage, Ernest was aboard HMS Opal on a night patrol hunting for German minelayers, when Opal fell victim to a terrible storm off the coast of the Orkney Islands.

Ernest was one of 96 men who went down with the ship. In 2007, divers exploring the wreck site found his ring, which was inscribed ‘To Stanley from Flo – 6 March 1916’ – an enduring symbol of their love.

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Claire Horton CBE, director general of the CWGC, said: ‘We are delighted to be launching our first ever War Graves Week.

‘For us at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, remembrance and the sharing and caring for World War heritage is a daily duty.

‘We wanted to take a chance to help people to see that work in action and make a local discovery.

‘Many people already know about their family’s links to the World Wars, but all of us have somewhere we call home today, and those places have their own stories too.

‘By simply entering your postcode on our website you can take the first step towards making a new connection.

‘We want people to share the stories they find and download a tribute for the men and women from their communities and display it in their window for War Graves Week.’

‘Behind every name on a war grave or memorial is a human story, just like Ernest’s waiting to be discovered, and War Graves Week is the perfect opportunity to do just that.’

Enter a postcode into www.cwgc.org/wargravesweek to find out about the men and women connected to the local community.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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