Cosham historian wants tributes to honour Portsmouth's fallen heroes in France on RemembranceÂ

A HISTORIAN has been blown away after his search for heartfelt tribute messages to mark Remembrance was answered by people from across the world.

Wednesday, 7th November 2018, 10:57 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th November 2018, 12:06 am
Historian Alan Laishley, third from left, with members of the Pompey Pals Gareth Lewis, Chris Pennycook and Bob Beech.

Cosham researcher Alan Laishley is sailing to France for Remembrance Sunday to pay tribute to two Portsmouth soldiers killed during the First World War.

And as part of the 54-year-old's trip across the Channel, he issued a rallying cry to the city to send in their own messages of thanks in honour of the brave men killed in the war, which ended almost a century ago.

But the First World War expert never expected to receive such a huge response. In a matter of days he had been inundated with more than 120 messages from the city, which will be used in a book of remembrance.

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Remarkably, his plea has reached people across the globe too, with messages having already poured in from Australia, America and France.

Now, with less than two days to go until he departs on his trip to France, Mr Laishley, of Hawthorn Crescent, is making one last push for tributes, which he will lay alongside a couple of wreaths at St Sever cemetery extension, in Rouen, Normandy.

Mr Laishley said: '˜I never expected such an incredible response. It's really been amazing.

'˜I thought I might get 20 messages here or there. But I've got 120 - that's mind-blowing.

'˜I have had them from all over the world. I have got four from Australia, there's one from America and some people in France have sent them too. It's been a really nice response.'

Alan's appeal started on social media last week and has gained momentum rapidly as the eyes of the globe turn towards Sunday's Armistice Day commemoration, which is marking the centenary of the end of the First World War.

He will be joined by friends Stuart Baxter, of Reigate, and Karsten Lund, of Denmark, as they lay wreaths honouring Portsmouth soldiers Sergeant Alfred Ernest Tilley and Lance Corporal Jesse Wells.

The pair were among the final casualties of the war, each dying on Armistice Day, in 1918.

Sgt Tilley, who was part of the Royal Field Artillery, was born in the city in 1887 and was among the first soldiers from the Portsmouth to reach the Western Front in France.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1916 for repeatedly braving heavy artillery and rifle fire to fix vital communication lines between his battery and forward observation point, mending 20 breaks.

Sgt Tilley died on the final day of the war after serving with the 97 Battery, 147th Brigade, succumbing to his wounds at a hospital in Rouen.

LCpl Wells, who was born in Hilsea in 1894 and served with the Leicestershire Regiment before joining the Army Cyclist Corps. He was among the millions to contract the deadly '˜Spanish Flu'. He died on Armistice Day while serving in Italy and is buried at the Staglieno Cemetery, in Genoa.

Mr Laishley said: '˜This was a generation of heroes. They were all truly incredible and we should never forget the sacrifices they made.'

Mr Laishley said people can still send him tributes to add to his book of remembrance, copies of which will also be sent to the Pompey Pals Charity's museum.

The deadline for messages is 5pm Friday. To send a message, email [email protected]