NOSTALGIA: A sight never to be seen again, the fleet lit up at Spithead

The 1935 Fleet Review with 157 major warships and 60 merchant vessels anchored at Spithead.
The 1935 Fleet Review with 157 major warships and 60 merchant vessels anchored at Spithead.

For those who witnessed it, the spectacular event recorded on the facing page, was a sight they would never forget.

For out at Spithead the pride of the Royal Navy, colossal by today’s standards, was celebrating the 25th anniversary of King George V coming to the throne.

Fireworks on the end of South Parade Pier

Fireworks on the end of South Parade Pier

This fantastic sight could be seen from the beach at Southsea when the ships of the 1935 Fleet Review sent up fireworks and lit the sky with their searchlights.

On show were one hundred and fifty-seven major warships (yes, 157) of all classes, along with 60 merchant vessels. And they put on a display which would never be seen again on such a scale.

It happened on July 16, 1935, and from 10pm until midnight the entire fleet was illuminated  in a scene never witnessed before nor since. 

It started with a given signal which meant all ships’ companies lined the guardrails and lit candles.

Southsea Model Village, 1966

Southsea Model Village, 1966

There was a complete blackout apart from one long, unending line of candles stretching along the Solent flickering along those rails way out at sea.

After that the candles were replaced by the massive firework and searchlight display.

Are there any readers who witnessed this fantastic scene. I would like to hear from you if possible.

n Still on the subject of firework. Who can remember the displays that took place, every Wednesday evening I believe, at the end of South Parade Pier? 

A pipe band leads the Club Tiberius along Eastney Esplanade, 1974. Picture: Kevin Munks

A pipe band leads the Club Tiberius along Eastney Esplanade, 1974. Picture: Kevin Munks

If you look at the foreground you can see the silhouettes of hundreds of people on the beach watching the display.

There are also a couple of chaps out on boats lit up by the firework fountain.

This would have been in the 1950s or early 1960s when the pier was the centre of entertainment on Southsea seafront. 

I wonder if the new owners have plans to re-introduce these firework displas?

n I have not visited the model village at Southsea, east of Canoe Lake, for many years so cannot say what it looks like today.

In this photo from the summer of 1966 it appears to have been a brilliant place to visit. Note the gipsy caravan and owners with their horse at the bottom of the photo.

n Finally, a further scene from the 1974 Portsmouth Carnival with a pipe band leading the way ahead of a bus with Club Tiberius employees on board.

The parade started at Eastney Barracks and passed along Eastney Esplanade and South Parade to Palmerston Road before turning into Osborne Road and on to Southsea Common.

That was a fair old hike on a hot summer’s day wearing a piper’s full regalia. In the distance is Hayling Island.