Memoirs reveal life of Gladys Howard – former Portsmouth mayor and police inspector

Dr Clifford Williams. Picture: Malcolm Wells
Dr Clifford Williams. Picture: Malcolm Wells
Roy Payne outside Portsmouth Magistrates' Court.

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MEMOIRS penned by Portsmouth’s first woman police inspector are set to be published after a historian poured over crates of her notes, diaries and reports.

Gladys Howard served in Portsmouth City Police and later was an elected councillor and Lord Mayor of Portsmouth.

Since then Dr Clifford Williams, of Hampshire Constabulary History Society, has spent months piecing together her memoirs.

Dr Clifford said: ‘Looking at the original documents and reading her memoirs really brought to life her experience and understanding of the history of Portsmouth in many respects because she paints the picture so well.

‘As a historian it’s great to read personal recollections which can fit into the over-arching national picture.

‘She will mention great events in the national scale of things and puts it into her personal context.’

Gladys died in June last year at the age of 100.

Her memoirs reveal how during the bombing of Portsmouth in the Second World War she took shelter in a building in St Vincent Street 200 yards from the Guildhall.

She ended up feeling as though she was being ‘cooked inside of this little oven’ so she fled.

Gladys wrote: ‘This is perhaps not the best word to describe it but it was magnificent.

‘We were surrounded by flame and acrid smoke.

‘Everything around us was on fire. It was almost unbelievable, almost unreal.’

As she found others and discussed the damage, she decided to walk home without the all-clear being sounded.

She wrote: ‘I walked over the rubble and debris as quickly as I could and as I walked down Park Road between the United Services Recreation Ground and the railway line, a very large of shrapnel came flying through the air and landed in the ground in front of me.

‘It obviously didn't have my name on it. A couple of inches nearer and it would have killed me.’

All funds raised from the sale of the £20 book, Never a Dull Moment: Memoirs of a Portsmouth Woman, will be published in October by Mango Books.

Proceeds will go to the Gurney Fund, a charity supporting children who have become orphans through the death of their police officer parents.

See mangobooks.co.uk