Children's graves found after 75 years
On the evening of April 17, 1941, a German raider passed over Portsmouth and circled above Portchester before making his way home.
He realised he had one remaining bomb in the plane’s bay and as the pilot guided the aircraft over Neville Avenue, Portchester, the bomb was released.
It landed square on number 36 destroying the house and killing two children. They were eight-year-old Isabella Gibson and her brother Andrew, seven.
They had been evacuated to Portchester after being bombed out of their home in Portsmouth. They were interred in St Mary’s Churchyard at Portchester Castle, but because of the straitened times no headstone was placed on the graves. As you can see from my picture, they remain unmarked to this day.
Fast forward 75 years and Dawn Cross of Braintree, Essex, contacted The News to tell us she had, for many, many years, been trying to find these two children. Her reason? If they had lived to adulthood they would have been her aunt and uncle.
I was asked if I could help so I went to see Gerry O’Brian, the cemeteries manager for Portsmouth.
After an hour of going through records we found nothing, but Gerry told me to contact the Fareham office which I did. Unfortunately, I had no joy here either.
I then made contact with Ruth Mitchell of the Portchester Historical Society who in turn put me in touch with the town’s archivist, a woman called Wendy.
She put me in touch with Hazel Powlesland, the churchwarden at St Mary’s, Portchester.
‘Ah,’ she said ‘you want to talk to Bryan Gerard. He has access to the church records.’
And so it was after much searching and phoning I found the unmarked graves of Isabella and Andrew.
They are next to a headstone which remembers a sailor who went down in HMS Hood in May 1941.
Dawn is now hoping to come down soon to lay some flowers on the graves.
caption: A children’s toy marks the spot where Isobella and Andrew Gibson are buried.