25 photos showing how the Second World War changed Portsmouth beyond recognition

When the Second World War began, life in Portsmouth changed beyond recognition.

Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 2:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 3:27 pm
Portsmouth children being evacuated in 1939. The girl on the left is Marjorie Charman nee Watts. Evacuees board buses at George Street, Portsmouth at the beginning of the Second World War. The News PP5415
Portsmouth children being evacuated in 1939. The girl on the left is Marjorie Charman nee Watts. Evacuees board buses at George Street, Portsmouth at the beginning of the Second World War. The News PP5415

As these historic photos show, the early months of the war meant residents had to quickly train as soldiers before departing for Europe and leaving their loved ones behind.

In our gallery you will also see young evacuees leaving the city, residents of Goodwood Road about to embark on an outing, not realising that in two months time the country would be at war, some of the first areas to be hit by the air raids and the devastation of those bombs.

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The 214 Battery was commanded by Roy Willis, a Mathematics master at Portsmouth Grammar School between 1925 and 1970. He took command of 214 Battery (of the 57th Heavy A.A. Regiment R.A., T.A.) in 1931 and encouraged many grammar school leavers to join, not only out of patriotism, but to enjoy the social and sporting life in the Territorial Army. By the time the battery was mobilised in August 1939, out of 235 officers and men about half were former pupils of the school.

Most of the area in Portsmouth destroyed in air raids has now been rebuilt, but the memories of the devastating war still remain.

We will be sharing more photos from this collection on our new Facebook group Portsmouth Retro – you can join here.

The calm before the storm. The residents of Goodwood Road, Southsea, off on their summer outing to Purbrook in July 1939.
The chart for War Weapons Week on the outside of the Guildhall, Portsmouth, October 21-26, 1940
In the summer of 1942 the Portsmouth City Police paraded on the square of the Victoria Barracks, Southsea.
circa 1940: Citizens of Portsmouth trying to find sleeping accommodation in the nearby countryside, after severe bombing raids on their city. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
The remains of Stanley Street, Portsmouth, after the third air raid on the city - August 24, 1940
The 214 Battery during the unit’s time on Southsea Common.
The King inspects members of the Local Defence Volunteers during a visit to Portsmouth on July 25, 1940
The original floral clock in Southsea about 1940. England Expects That Every Man This Day Will Do His Duty.
Winston Churchill at the beginning of the war.
Here we see Highbury Buildings south of Cosham railway gates after being hit on December 12 1940. Two local people were killed by this explosion. Joan Millet aged 19 of Chatsworth Avenue, Highbury and Frederick Waldron aged 53 of Park Grove, Cosham.
1940: British soldiers negotiating a barbed wire defence during a seashore invasion exercise. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Portsmouth blitz, January 10, 1940 - Guildhall ablaze
The second air raid on Portsmouth, August 12, 1940, and the Harbour station is hit.
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's diary showing the entry for the day he declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. Picture: Imperial War Museum/PA Wire
Evacuee family September 1939. The News PP296
On February 25, 1940, the Home Secretary Sir John Anderson paid us a visit.
15th October 1939: Anxious relatives read a list of survivors from the HMS 'Royal Oak' posted up at a South Coast Port. The Admiralty states that battleship was sunk by a U-boat. (Photo by E. Phillips/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Children wave goodbye to Portsmouth September 1939. The News PP308
The young lady surrounded by officers and the mayor is actress Anna Neagle. She was attending a fete at the R.A.O.C. Barracks at Hilsea in September 1941. Miss Neagle was the star of many films more well known as Queen Victoria in Victoria the Great 1937 and Sixty Glorious Years 1938. She also appeared as Nurse Edith Cavel, 1939. Dame Anna Neagle at the R.A.O.C. Barracks in September 1941.
Ruination at Portsmouth Harbour Station. Taken from ’ Southern Way-Wartime Southern’ here we see a burnt out carriage at the Portsmouth Harbour Station after a raid on August 12, 1940. The roof supports have been painted black and white for better sightseeing in the blackout. In this raid four trains were destroyed and the Isle of Wight landing stage was gutted. One man was killed.
Gas mask fitting at Highland Road School, Southsea, 1939. The News PP289
Spitfires from 610 Squadron 24 July 1940.
Women ambulance volunteers from Royal Portsmouth Hospital in September 1939. The News PP494
Sentry on guard at Portsbridge - a solider with bayonet fixed guarding the entrance to Portsmouth at Hilsea in 1939.
Portsmouth children being evacuated in 1939. The girl on the left is Marjorie Charman nee Watts. Evacuees board buses at George Street, Portsmouth at the beginning of the Second World War. The News PP5415