The Yanks are coming – in run-up to war

The battleship USS New York which visited Portsmouth in 1938.
The battleship USS New York which visited Portsmouth in 1938.
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Not some far flung island but Port Creek alongside Eastern Road, Portsmouth, earlier this week. I counted more than 50 plastic bottles along with other man-made filth.

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On the morning of July 18, 1938, three American battleships visited the city, but where they parked I don’t know. With the Royal Navy the size it was, I don’t suppose there was that much spare anchorage within the Dockyard.

The ships, USS New York, USS Wyoming and USS Texas were said to be on an informal visit, but with war approaching perhaps there was a bit more to it than a public relations exercise.

The council allowed the ships’ companies free rides on local buses and the lord mayor received a thank you letter from Fleet Commander Rear Admiral AW Johnsonn which said: ‘We shall long remember your thoughtfulness in issuing free conveyance on the corporation’s buses and trolley buses.

‘It is difficult to realise what a help this has been to our personnel in getting about your splendid city.

‘I assure you that full use has been made of this unusual privilege and all hands have appreciated the courtesy extended.’

We used to know how to do it in those days.

Two months later two American cruisers, Nashville and Honolulu, unexpectedly arrived in the afternoon of September 20.

Why the report said ‘unexpectedly’ I don’t know. Someone must have known.

A month later on October 1 a further visit from the Americans brought the destroyer Somers and the cruiser Savannah into harbour. Whether the sailors of these ships had the same privilege as the battleships’ is not recorded.