Never forget what these Portsmouth people died for | Nostalgia

Today we commemorate the 76th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

By Bob Hind
Saturday, 8th May 2021, 12:38 pm
The mass funeral at Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth, for those who died during the air raid on the night of January 10/11, 1941.
The mass funeral at Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth, for those who died during the air raid on the night of January 10/11, 1941.

We also celebrate the fact that this is the UK where we still have, to a certain degree within the law, free speech, although that appears to be eroded on a monthly basis.

In France and Belgium there are hundreds of Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries containing the graves of thousands of men who died so we have the privilege of talking freely. That is not to mention the many other thousands of graves around the world and here at home.

Many who know me quite well know that I can be abrupt, blunt and to the point and ask impertinent questions.

The memorial to Portsmouth's civilian war dead at Kingston Cemetery. Picture: Bob Hind.

I also do not have an ounce of this modern, inane idiom, ‘political correctness’, in my body.

My late father always told me that if I had something to say and it annoyed or offended someone then let them be annoyed but remember, ‘if someone says something to you which you don’t like, just say: “That’s your opinion although I do not agree with you”.’

He lost a brother during the war, Lt William John Hind of the Hampshire Regiment.

He died when the troopship SS Ceramic was torpedoed in the Atlantic in December 1942.

She went down with the loss of 650 men, women and children, all lost except one who was rescued by the U-boat that sank the ship. I have never forgotten my father’s words.

In the summer of 1939 nearly 1,000 people living in Portsmouth and the surrounding district had no reason to believe they would not be alive in the summer of 1945, except those who died of natural causes of course. How wrong those that died were.

Those people were killed through the actions of insane despots who thought it was a good idea to start a war.

Although nearly 1,000 died in Portsmouth over that five-year period along with many thousands in London, Coventry, Hull, Birmingham and other cities, just think how other cities suffered around the world.

It is easy to say: ‘Well, they started it and we finished it’ but it went further than that of course.

In Tokyo an estimated 100,000 civilians and military died in just one night.

In Dresden, Germany, another 25,000 died, again in one night of air raids.

I have not even touched on the millions of Jewish people murdered by the Nazis. We will never know of course, but if Germany had invaded and taken over this country perhaps we might have had concentration and death camps here. Just think about that.

It was Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese warmongers who wanted something different to the way of life as it was then of course.

So today, we must give our thanks to all those who were lost in conflict and to have the grace to say thank god we have not had a world war since 1945 and have lived in relative peace.

In 1961, there were men and women of my age now who had gone through two world wars within 31years. Just think about that also for a moment. The same period of time as from 1990.

Of course, we have had conflicts, minor compared to the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, Malaya, Northern Ireland, the Falklands and the Middle East conflicts in which many were killed and must be remembered.

Those that died in the City of Portsmouth, christened The City of Gallant Hearts by Admiral Sir William James, included a baby aged just six weeks along with men women and children of all ages who were going about their daily business.

We might remember the six Wilkinson sisters, four killed at a stroke with two dying later. The seven Scouts aged between 10 and 13 killed in Bramble Road when an air raid shelter took a direct hit.

The eight members of the same family who died when another shelter took a direct hit in Besant Road, Fratton, or Laurence and Iris Pearce killed just five weeks after they were married. They were buried together with Iris in her wedding dress.

To end this piece, there are some in the area who have shown no respect for the war dead.

In Kingston Cemetery there is a mass grave of those who died on the night of January 10/11, 1941. A memorial to all those killed was erected in 1945 with their names in lead.

One night a few years ago, some idiots chiselled the lead from the memorial to obtain a few pence from a scrapyard. The names have since been replaced in a different material.

Please take a few minutes today to remember all those, soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians who did not live to see the hard-won peace which we have enjoyed for so long.

Thank you.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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