NOSTALGIA WITH BOB HIND: Burned to death while working on a warship's boilers

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On Friday, December 15, I published two photographs of a funeral taking place at Kingston Cemetery. I asked if anyone could let me know what had happened to CPO Lea to allow him to be given such a splendid send off.

Sally Willis and Nick Murphy answered my call.

CPO Lea's death was registered at Alverstoke. He died in Haslar Hospital of shock having been admitted the previous day with extensive burns.

Herbert, who was born in Warwickshire in 1873, had been working on the boilers of the battleship HMS Hindustan. 

Overalls worn for such work quickly absorbed the lubricating oil used on the boilers. For some reason Herbert dropped his oil lamp or had it knocked from his hand and the flame set fire to his oil-sodden overalls.

Herbert, in the close confines of the engine room, was engulfed in flames. He died a week later.

Nick says: 'There were no witnesses to the actual event which was surmised, but a witness saw him shortly afterwards as he emerged in flames. The verdict was accidental death.

‘I would imagine the people at the funeral were the entire company of HMS Hindustan (other than the watch) as well as other friends and family.

'The captain no doubt gave permission for a naval service as the poor man died on duty.

'I think it was not unusual to produce postcards as mementoes in those days, in this case for crewmates and family, but this is guesswork.’

I'd like to wish everyone a happy new year.

I am entering my tenth year of writing these columns and enjoy it more each year.

The diversity of subjects to write about in this marvellous city and region of ours sometimes overwhelms me.

So many of you remember events of interest that others would not have the slightest clue about.

And no matter what questions I ask in seeking your help, there is always someone who can enlighten me. 

Of course, being a naval city, the navy of the past receives more attention than the other two services, but perhaps I can create some balance next year.

Having said that, there are so many ex-matelots in the city and I do receive much mail from them.

My last book, Portsmouth in Transition, has been well received I am glad to say and many of the smaller bookshops and newsagents regularly sell out and have had to re-order several times over. So thank you all for that.

In the coming months I will be putting together together two new then-and-now photographic books.

One is on the Portsdown & Horndean Light Railway which ran from Cosham to Horndean.

I know from previously published photographs that this subject creates a large amount of interest.

I have started to retake the photographs but as there are more than 50 locations I have to hunt for many in vastly altered scenes and it is not a five-minute job.

I must make a public thank you to two people who assist me with these pages on a Saturday and when I stand in for Chris Owen during the week.

Barry Cox and Robert James are the two who allow me to peruse their extensive postcard and photograph collections.

They allow me free range of their material for you to enjoy. Thank you both.

I must also mention and thank Eddie Wallace the former police/fireman and Portsmouth City Police sergeant.

His vast knowledge of the city is beyond anything I know of first hand and he must, at times, get fed up with some of my questioning on all subjects under the sun. He is far too polite to tell me where to get off of course, so thank you Eddie.

There we are. I look forward to talking to and hearing from you all again next year.

Gordon Banks, former footballer, 80; Michael Nesmith, singer/songwriter (The Monkees), 75; Jeff Lynne, rock musician (ELO), 70; Nick

Skelton, showjumper, 60; Tracey Ullman, actress/comedian, 58; Jay Kay, singer (Jamiroquai), 48; Tiger Woods, golfer, 42; Eliza Dushku, actress, 37; Ellie Goulding, singer, 31.