They died the noblest death a man may die

A 'don't be alarmed' poster. Mind you, the cliffs are not Pompey, are they?
A 'don't be alarmed' poster. Mind you, the cliffs are not Pompey, are they?
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In the next week or so I’ll be writing about some of the men of Portsmouth who fought and died in (and some who managed to survive) the First World War.

Not everyone can be mentioned, of course. It is brief record of the town, as it was then, and the streets and roads which lost so many men.

The war is just a few hours old and sailors return from all over the country. Waiting outside the Royal Naval Barracks, Queen Street.

The war is just a few hours old and sailors return from all over the country. Waiting outside the Royal Naval Barracks, Queen Street.

Instead of putting Portsmouth after every address, I’m expecting everyone who reads this to assume the address is on Portsea Island unless stated.

I’m sure everyone who reads The News will know where Landport, Copnor, Tipner and Southsea etc are.

The majority of names come from The National Roll of The Great War-Portsmouth, published in 1920. The relatives of the men, and many women, paid to have their names and citation placed in theroll.

For whatever reason, many names are not recorded in the roll or on the websites of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Forces War Record website names many who fought and survived, but many more are missing.

The Emis family is one such name. The household sent off four sons to war, with one being killed. But there is no record I have found as yet after much researching.

Many families added a name so the person could be recorded as serving.

In the Roll of Honour published in Portsmouth & The Great War (available from The News), every person mentioned lost their life.

Up to the anniversary of the beginning of the war last year, I placed a page of names every week in my Saturday column.

In these days of care and counselling, it makes me wonder how on earth people managed in those far-off days.

The Dennis family lost three of their sons within two years.

Did their parents fall apart, or just accept what fate had in store?

Was it to them one of those things that happens in war and they carried on for the one son that returned?

War is war and losses must be accepted.

At the end of the First World War, which was to become known as The Great War and The War To End All Wars, there was not a city, town, village or hamlet that did not lose at least one son in the defence of the realm.

Although the army and navy suffered most losses, the Royal Flying Corp (later known as the Royal Air Force of course) also had its share of losses.

Of course, in cities and towns that were of a military nature, such as Aldershot, Catterick and Colchester, the locals joined up as the service was in their blood.

Similarly, naval towns such as Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham had many local men and boys join the Royal Navy.

Many would all join the same ship.It must have been like a pals’ battalion.

I’ve been told many ships had messdecks made up of men from the same streets whose wives were all friends.

Having said that, researching the records, I was somewhat amazed at the amount of local men who had volunteered for the army (and not a few for the RAF).

We must not forget of course, the men of the Mercantile Marine who also lost so many during the war.

It was said that when the Titanic went down, whole streets of children in Southampton became orphans.

Okay, it was not a wartime sinking but the effect was the same.

Below left, we see a poster put about every town at the beginning of the war.

The space for the nominated town was kept clear and then added when required.

No doubt the publisher did not realise Portsmouth was flat and left the cliffs in the background!

Below right, we have a scene from when the war was just a few hours old.

On the call to return to barracks, every able-bodied sailor on leave made haste to get back to their depots.

Here we see some of them having walked from the station with their kitbags.

The corrugated iron sheets were placed against the railing to stop nosey onlookers taking a view when the sailors were on the parade ground.

I’ll have more on the First World War tomorrow.

Now, on the opposite page, we see an aerial view of Portchester Halt located behind the stand of the race-track.

The track was called Portsmouth Racetrack, although it was well out of the city limits.

It only lasted 11 years from 1928 until 1939, when the land was required by the military.

It has always been the wish of many locals for the station to be replaced, but there are no plans at the moment.

In the distance the tall building in the centre is the Harbour Lights pub and restaurant. It is now surrounded by hotels.

To the right we would now see the giant Tesco store as all the houses have been demolished bar three close by the motorway bridge over the A27.