NOSTALGIA: Poor turnout mars event for US troops who died in Portsmouth hospital

Park Road, Portsmouth, 1972. It's only the roof of the Guildhall that gives away the location of what is now King Henry I Street.
Park Road, Portsmouth, 1972. It's only the roof of the Guildhall that gives away the location of what is now King Henry I Street.
Holly Young, seven, at Paulsgrove beach. PPP-180619-094144006

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Last Friday a special memorial service and plaque unveiling took place at the gates of St James’s Hospital, Locksway Road, Milton, Portsmouth.

It was all to do with the 460 American soldiers who died in the hospital in 1918 either from wounds received on the battlefields of France or as a result of the Spanish flu pandemic that spread across Europe in that year and 1919.

Councillor Lee Mason, the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth and Major Mangiaracina of the US Army Air Corp unveil the plaque at St Jamess Hospital. Picture: Robert James

Councillor Lee Mason, the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth and Major Mangiaracina of the US Army Air Corp unveil the plaque at St Jamess Hospital. Picture: Robert James

Unlike the American soldiers of the Second World War whose bodies were repatriated home for burial these soldiers were for the most part interred in Brookwood Military Cemetery west of Woking, Surrey. The part of the cemetery where they rest is planted with Kentucky bluegrass.

The service was organised by Dr Caroline Scott along with her friend Thelma Turner-Hill.

Funds were raised for a plaque which was unveiled by Major Mangiaracina of the United States Army Air Corps and the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Lee Mason.

I am sad to say this event was not promoted by Portsmouth City Council and there was a poor turnout.

The memorial plaque to the lost American soldiers. Picture: Robert James

The memorial plaque to the lost American soldiers. Picture: Robert James

In my opinion, something much more should have been done.

Perhaps a detachment of Royal Marine musicians to play Taps (the American equivalent of the Last Post) and the Stars and Stripes flying somewhere.

It was a very disappointing show especially as the wording on the plaque says: 'Portsmouth honours and remembers you.’ 

Steve McFarlane conducted a short service of prayers.

Some of the 468 American servicemens graves at the American Military Cemetery, Brookwood, Surrey.

Some of the 468 American servicemens graves at the American Military Cemetery, Brookwood, Surrey.

Afterwards guests were taken to the Old House at Home pub for sandwiches and drinks.

•I don’t suppose for a minute that if you could not see the roof of the Guildhall in the picture on the facing page you would be able to guess where this view was taken from in 1972.

The News staff photographer must have had a head for heights especially when you consider that looking through a lens could have put him off balance.

The shot is looking down along Park Road, now King Henry I Street, Portsmouth.

Imagine all those cars parked in the much narrower street these days, not to mention the lengthy traffic islands.

In the distance Queen Victoria still casts her beady eye  over Guildhall Square. Behind where the dark lorry is passing by is where the Central Library now stands. Behind that is, of course, the Civic Offices.

In the top right hand corner the land on which the fondly-remembered Hippodrome theatre stood is still a bomb site left over from the Second World War.

In the bottom right corner is the former headquarters of the city’s Police Fire Brigade.