Strong fleet of gunboats were kept ready for action

The Victorian gunboat yard on the south side of Haslar Creek, Gosport, in 1878
The Victorian gunboat yard on the south side of Haslar Creek, Gosport, in 1878
A little fuzzy perhaps but here we see Portsdown Hill Road where it meets London Road. The George pub would be on the right behind the soldiers. 'Picture: Barry Cox Collection

NOSTALGIA: PoWs forced to cut height of Portsdown Hill

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This line drawing shows Victorian Haslar gunboat yard in 1878.

The yard was built as an adjunct to Portsmouth Dockyard for the maintenance of wooden gunboats, on the south side of Haslar Creek off the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour.

The creek at Haslar was suitable for launching of boats of shallow draught at certain heights of tide.

The yard was built at the end of the Russian War for storing and preserving the many gunboats that had been built by private builders under contract during that war.

It was considered an important lesson learned from the war that Britain needed a strong fleet of vessels ready-built for any future emergency.

At Haslar they were stored and ready for use at an hour’s notice in sufficient numbers to enter the English Channel.

These gunboats were needed for their close inshore capabilities against forts and defences of major powers. The use of propellers in ships meant that small vessels with one or two heavy guns could bombard from long range.

When Haslar gunboat yard was built in 1857/58 it was 2,640ft long and 816ft wide. It had a water frontage throughout its entire length.

On the side opposite to its water frontage stood a line of galvanized iron covered sheds for 50 gunboats. The entire length of the shed line was more than a mile long at 1,900ft.