Worst Portsmouth-bound air raid of war was 80 years ago this weekend | Nostalgia

Amazing as it may sound, but during the Second World War Hayling Island was used as a decoy for Portsmouth to distract German bombers away from the city.

By Bob Hind
Saturday, 17th April 2021, 6:00 am
The corner of St Mary's Road and Shearer Road, Portsmouth. It was to avoid yet more scenes like this in the city that Hayling Island was used as a decoy.
The corner of St Mary's Road and Shearer Road, Portsmouth. It was to avoid yet more scenes like this in the city that Hayling Island was used as a decoy.

Special fire sites were set up to make bombers think the entrance to Langstone Harbour was the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour.

When the fire sites were ablaze all the bombers had to do was drop their bombs to the east of the harbour entrance thinking they had bombed the dockyard and Old Portsmouth.

More people were killed by enemy action on Hayling during the war than anywhere else in the borough of Havant and Waterlooville.

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The memorial to six of the gunners who died at the Sinah Warren gun site at Hayling Island. A seventh, Jack Chandler, died of injuries two days later. Picture: Richard Coates

As we know, Hayling Island from the air is almost a mirror image of Portsea Island although somewhat smaller.

On the night of the April 17/18, 1941, Hayling received more than 200 bombs and parachute mines and the Sinah Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery on the west of the island took a direct hit killing six gunners.

Another, Jack Chandler, died of his injuries two days later. But his name is not on the plaque and I have been unable to find out more about him. Can anyone help?

The gun site remained out of action until December 1941. It consisted of four emplacements armed with 4.5-inch naval guns.

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the bombing of the site this weekend, Richard Coates spent hours organising a service of remembrance to the soldiers killed.

The service was to be conducted by the padre and attended by 16 members of the Royal Regiment Artillery based at Thorney Island.

A flag bearer, bugler and piper plus the mayor of Havant were also to attend. The head boy and head girl from Hayling College were to read For The Fallen. There were also to be four Second World War vehicles.

I say ‘was’, for at the eleventh hour Havant Borough Council stopped the event, even having the audacity to overrule the Public Health England Covid-19 ruling.

The council owns the land along with Hayling Golf Club. Just six people attending would have done no justice to those who died.

Seeing as pubs and shops were allowed to open from last Monday I can see little reason for the cancellation of the event. It was not to be held indoors but in the open air on Hayling seafront.

Seeing as 30 mourners were today expected to attend the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in a confined space, how come this commemoration had to be cancelled?

Richard, who I must thank for helping compile this article, hopes to organise another event next year when the public should be able to attend.

Of the six men who died two were local and one was from the Isle of Wight.

Reginald Knight, 21, was the son of Henry and Bessie Knight. he was married to Rosina (Rose) living in Wymering. He is interred in Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth.

Arthur Farmer is also interred at Kingston but I cannot find more about him.

Leonard Ward came from the Isle of Wight. Aged 22, he was the son of Ernest and Mabel Ward of Gunville, Isle of Wight. He is interred in Carisbrook Cemetery. The family had more sadness three years later when another son, Percy, 24, serving with the Hampshire Regiment in Italy, was killed on August 30, 1944. He is buried in Montecchio Cemetery, Italy.Jack Chandler who died in hospital two days later.


Bob Dowdell asks: ‘The recent articles on HMS Vanguard were very interesting especially the photo taken from the Gosport side overlooking the line-up of Provincial buses,

'What is interesting is, where did the photographer take this picture from? The photographer was high up and well above the roofs of the buses.

'The line of sight from South Railway Jetty and over the buses must mean that it would be about where Littlewoods or Woolworth’s stores were located just up from where the Isle of Wight Hoy pub was in High Street, I would guess, but on top of the store frontage.’ Can anyone help?


A while ago I wrote about the zoo on Whale Island and asked for any memories of it. Captain Gordon Walwyn from Warblington, tells of a pet dog on a minesweeper he commanded in the Far East.

He says: ‘We had a dog called Rusty. In harbour he spent all his time ashore but seemed to know when we were sailing and arrived back in time for the departure.

'He would retire to a mess deck and hop into any vacant bunk and remain there while we were at sea. When we got about 50 miles from land he would appear in the eyes of the ship and just sniff until land appeared. He was never wrong.’

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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