Women finally identified in this famous wartime Portsmouth picture | Nostalgia

This famous photograph comes from the Portsmouth Evening News edition of Smitten City – The Story of Portsmouth In The Air Raids 1940-1944 and published in 1945.

By Bob Hind
Thursday, 11th February 2021, 6:44 pm
Gillian Timms' mother, Betty Knight and Eileen Mills. Mick Kimber’s father is the soldier. Picture: The News archive
Gillian Timms' mother, Betty Knight and Eileen Mills. Mick Kimber’s father is the soldier. Picture: The News archive

I produced a book called Smitten City Then and Now retaking many of the photographs in the original book including the one below which shows exactly the same view of Commercial Road.

I have now found out the names of the girls walking through the rubble alongside the burned-out and still-smoking Mcllroy’s store.

Behind the girls is another well known Portsmouth store Hepworth’s, also destroyed. The photograph was taken on the morning of April 28, 1941, the day after a heavy raid that blitzed the northern end of Commercial Road – just about 80 years ago.

Where the girls walked through the rubble of the blitz. The same location today. Mcllroy’s was where Other World Escapes is.

I must thank Gillian Timms for the information although she failed to let me know her mother’s name. Please let me know Gillian.

From the left we have Gillian’s mother then Betty Knight and in the fur coat is Eileen Mills. To the right of her is the former Thomas Street.

The soldier walking in front is the father of someone called Mick Kimber and that’s all we know. So if Mick is reading this, please get in touch.

This is, believe it or not, the same spot where the women were walking. Where Mcllroy’s once was is now beside the roundabout linking Lake Road with Commercial Road and Market Way. The girls would be where the car is. Thomas Street disappeared when the row of shops was rebuilt.

The Broadway, Highland Road, Southsea. Remember Cawtes which offered an express valet service?

• Our final picture was taken in the early 1960s and shows The Broadway, a row of shops on Highland Road, Southsea. Todd’s at 171 appears to have been a second-hand shop although in these PC days it would no doubt be a pre-used shop! On the left across Hellyer Road was Bon Marche a drapers and textile merchant.

• Last January I wrote about local man Alan Clark, an electrician and sound engineer. In later life he did the sound for the late Des O’Connor. We have now lost Alan too.

After a short career in the Royal Navy as an electrical engineer, Alan opened a shop in Milton repairing televisions.

He won a contract with South Parade Pier’s management as a sound man about which he knew much as Tannoy repairs were part of his naval duties. He also worked at the Savoy, Southsea, where he met stars including Diana Dors and Kathy Kirby. He was well known by musicians and DJs.

For some years he helped Portsmouth DJ Pete Cross. Alan had a Jaguar so was Pete’s roadie and sound technician. Alan retired to live at Widley.

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