When world rulers were frequent visitors to Portsmouth | Nostalgia

There was a time when it seems that anyone who was anyone visited Portsmouth, especially to tour HMS Victory or any other naval vessel available.

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 9:16 am
HMS Vernon in 1977. The helicopter landing pads were installed that year.
HMS Vernon in 1977. The helicopter landing pads were installed that year.

In March 1928 King Amanillah Khan and Queen Souraya of Afghanistan visited England.

They arrived at Dover on a destroyer and were met by the Prince of Wales. They then travelled by train to London to be met by King George V and Queen Mary who drove them to Buckingham Palace through streets thronged with cheering crowds.

On March 19 the King and Queen visited Portsmouth and toured HMS Victory. The King later visited a submarine and, as you can see from the photograph, he appeared to have a thoroughly good time.

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On March 19, 1928, the King and Queen of Afghanistan visited Portsmouth. Picture: The News archive.

After the Afghan civil war in 1928-1929 the King abdicated and the couple settled in Rome. He died in 1960 aged 67 and Queen Soraya died in 1968 aged 68.

In September 1928 Muhammed bib Ahmad al-Ghasham, the Sultan of Muscat, visited the city and toured the dockyard. He paid a visit to HMS Tiger and then boarded a submarine.

In addition to the potentates mentioned, Victory received officers and men from the Chilean training ship General Banquedano and the Spanish destroyers Alsedo, Vilasco and Juan Lazaga.

The year 1928 was busy as on August 25, 350 members of parliament visited Victory, the Prince of Wales on June 27 and the King on July 17. July 31 saw a visit by the Argentinian training ship Presidente Sarmiento and on the 2nd2 the Swedish training ship Fylgia. The crews of all the foreign ships were made welcome and allowed free travel on corporation trams plus free entry to South Parade Pier.

In September 1928 the Sultan of Muscat visited Portsmouth and HMS Tiger. Picture: Portsmouth News archive.

With the completion of HMS Victory back to her 1805 state in Navy Week of 1928 (August 18-24), no fewer than 89,583 paid for admission to the dockyard and of these 51,331 visited HMS Victory.

Will we ever see the likes of such esteemed visitors and tourists again I wonder?

• Taken from the new book Barracks, Forts and Ramparts (available from [email protected]) the main picture today shows HMS Vernon in 1977.

The helipads were put in place for helicopters arriving with visitors for the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review of that year.

The green cabin ‘above’ that area is the helicopter escape tank and above that in the right hand corner, Portsmouth power station. An Isle of Wight ferry is approaching the Harbour Station terminus. Top left is the football pitch later to be used as a car park. Most of what you see has now been demolished to make way for Gunwharf Quays.