Sailors deserted from Portsmouth warship for better life in Canada – Nostalgia

Park Road looking east towards Guildhall Square. Photo: Barry Cox Collection.
Park Road looking east towards Guildhall Square. Photo: Barry Cox Collection.
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A pre-1936 view along what was then Park Road with a tram heading for Guildhall Square.

On the left is what was, when it opened in 1908, the Municipal College. It opened on September 10 and cost £100,000. It later became the College of Technology and in 1969, Portsmouth Polytechnic. I believe it is now just called the Park Building belonging to the University of Portsmouth.

NOW: The same view today along Park Road now King Henry I Street.

NOW: The same view today along Park Road now King Henry I Street.

The Guildhall can be seen as it was until January 10, 1941, when the blitz on the city gutted the building. The cupola on top of the clock tower was where incendiary bombs got caught in grating and set fire to the rest of the building. Those along the side of the roof all collapsed into the interior.

The modern view shows the same road which has been renamed King Henry I Street. The Guildhall cupolas have been replaced by flat roofs. The modern street lighting, parked cars, yellow lines and hundreds of students who now inhabit the area make it a much-changed scene.

Just to the right of the clock tower can be seen the top of a yellow building going up in Commercial Road near the railway station.

• In 1908, a few months after she was commissioned, the cruiser HMS Indomitable left Portsmouth with the Prince of Wales, later George V. She went to Quebec for the 300th anniversary of the city’s founding. 

HMS Indomitable arrives with the Prince of Wales 1908. Picture: Barry Cox Collection.

HMS Indomitable arrives with the Prince of Wales 1908. Picture: Barry Cox Collection.

On July 25 a state ball was held and 3,000 invitations issued. As it was not necessary to present a card to get in many turned up in a suit and dress, and with plenty of nerve, to gain admission.  

HMS Indomitable left Canada on July 29, 1908, but not before some of the ship’s company disappeared amid  reports of wholesale desertion. Many single men found Canada’s living conditions better than those at home.

When Indomitable returned to Portsmouth people rowed out to the ship, perhaps for a glimpse of the prince who would no doubt board a train on the jetty. It would then pass over the swing bridge on the right to join the main line at Portsmouth Harbour station.