The brother aged 21 who brought up seven siblings in Portsmouth

The family in later life. Only three remain.
The family in later life. Only three remain.
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I have been researching the bomb crater made in 1941 at Wymering and which was pictured in Smitten City, a photographic record of the bombing of Portsmouth.

I had many replies but, as ever when I talk to readers, several marvellous stories emerge. And such was the case with the Limburn family.

Arthur and Patience Limburn.

Arthur and Patience Limburn.

Patience and Arthur Limburn lived at 72, Harleston Road, Wymering, Portsmouth, and raised eight children – Arthur, George, Ronald, Leslie, Vera, Elsie, Doreen and Brenda.

Arthur Snr died, aged 41, in 1941, the legacy of being gassed in the First World War.

Patience died just four weeks after her husband as the result of a thrombosis.

Their children were left alone.

Les Limburn.

Les Limburn.

Today there would be counsellors, family allowance, free rent and other benefits to help the family, but back then there was little assistance.

The oldest son, Arthur, was determined the family would not be split up and he swore he would raise them himself.

He was 21 when their parents died and a short while later he was called up to join the army.

He went to the authorities and told them in no uncertain terms he would not be going and that he intended to raise his family whether they liked it or not.

After much debate the authorities conceded defeat.

Arthur was a projectionist at the Plaza cinema at Bradford Junction, Portsmouth, and all his wages went on paying the rent on the house and feeding the family.

Two sisters, Vera and Elsie, had left school at 14 and what meagre wages they earned also went into the pot.

Les Limburn, now aged 85, is one of only three of the family remaining. Ron, 88, and Brenda, 80, survive with him.

Les was 10 when his parents died and he tells me Arthur did a marvellous job bringing up the family in the right way. ‘None of us was ever in trouble with the police or at school. Arthur would have killed us if we did.’

He cannot remember much about events of the time as he was out with his pals most days after school and at weekends ‘over Portsdown Hill’.

He can remember when he and his pals found a cache of a dozen .303 rifles wrapped in waterproofing. They reported it to the police who promptly took Les and his friends in for questioning. They could not establish where the lads could have possibly stolen a dozen rifles from, so they were released.

After that bomb dropped on Wymering, Les and the two youngest sisters, Doreen and Brenda, were evacuated to Petworth.

Les remembers vividly that while they were there the school took a direct hit killing 28 children.

In later life Les went on to join the army. He served for a short while at Fort Widley, a short walk from his home. He later served in Egypt.

Vera later joined the Waafs, George joined the RAF and Ronald also joined the army.

I will be writing the full story of the Wymering bomb next week.