PAUL NEWELL: A decade of occasions – two royal weddings, a war and a hurricane

HMS Invincible returns to the Solent after it was deployed to serve in the Falklands War
HMS Invincible returns to the Solent after it was deployed to serve in the Falklands War
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There are a few national occasions from the 1980s that I remember well, such as the two royal weddings televised in all their splendour. Locally, Portsmouth also made the headlines, mainly through two major events.

The first was the raising of the Tudor warship ‘Mary Rose’, flagship of King Henry VIII’s Navy, in October 1982. I was at Northern Parade Middle School at the time and we all sat in the hall in front of the television watching events unfold. There were audible gasps as the yellow cradle seemed to buckle, followed by cheers as the remains of the ship saw daylight for the first time in over four hundred years. After 28,000 dives and three years of preparation the Mary Rose was on the surface once more. I love history so I was very excited and could not wait to be able to go and see it albeit through the mist of the treatment spray.

The second event was the Falklands War. The Task Force left Portsmouth led by HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes with all of the sailors lining the decks, and I was one of the flag waving many standing on the hill by the castle. It was an incredible sight, but, being only ten at the time, the actual realisation and significance of what I was witnessing was, perhaps, lacking. I also went down to the sea front to see the ships come back following the successful campaign. Unfortunately my little camera and lack of photography skills meant that the moment was not suitably captured. The experience, however, was not one to be forgotten.

In June 1984 I was lucky enough to meet the Queen Mother on her way to open the D-Day museum. I was at the Grammar school at the time and a few of us who had expressed an interest were selected to greet the Queen Mother who stopped at the school for a quick visit beforehand. I formed part of a small guard of honour and she greeted us as she stepped out of her car. My parents and nan came as well and were thrilled to see her so close up in intimate surroundings. I had my picture taken next to the royal car and then we dashed down to join the masses lining the streets up to the D-Day museum. We only caught a glimpse of her as she drove by so we were really pleased to have had the honour beforehand.

My first brush with royalty came a few years before at the opening of the Mountbatten Centre at Alexandra Park. A few children had been selected from the local middle schools to again provide a guard of honour, this time for Prince Andrew who was opening the new leisure centre. I remember standing at the entrance on the side of the building waiting around for him to arrive, then standing like a sentry as he strode past into the centre. It was over quick as a flash.

The final event worthy of note was the hurricane in 1987. We all remember Michael Fish’s denial and the devastation caused. Our back fence was practically the only one left standing although the TV aerial came crashing down and was banging against the bedroom window. We were glad the rotting cedar tree had been removed in next door’s garden a few months before, else that may have made an unwanted guest appearance in my bedroom.

Thankfully the massive oak tree right outside our house remained upright, although the branches made a hell of a racket as they were battered by the wind.