Pompey Pals armed forces commemorations transform Guildhall Square as they return for fourth year
ARMED forces personnel past and present were honoured yesterday as the Pompey Pals charity threw its latest commemoration.
It took over Guildhall Square with military vehicles, period costume from the Ubique Right of the Line Living History Group and a host of stalls from organisations across the veteran community.
Visitors gathered at the Cenotaph for a poignant service at 11am – paying homage to the Portsmouth-based 14th and 15th battalions of the Hampshire Regiment – which both left for the Battle of the Somme in September, 1916.
For June Porter the occasion struck a chord as she remembered her great-grandmother’s brother, Charles Freeman, who died as a teenager in the conflict in France.
‘It was always brought home to us when we were kids that he'd died so we could be free,’ said the 65-year-old from Copnor.
‘We should never, ever forget what happened – in either war – and the Pompey Pals do a fantastic job of making sure that doesn't happen with events like today’s.’
A later vigil marked the 75th anniversaries of D-Day and the Battle of Arnhem, as the Grenadier Guards teamed up with Seekers Create to run a trail in Victoria Park telling the story of Shirley’s Flag.
The Union flag was handed to Grenadier Guards by four-year-old Shirley Trotter in 1945, as they prepared to take their Sherman Firefly tank to D-Day from Hulbert Road, Bedhampton.
Saddened soldiers wrote to the youngster's mother to say the flag had been lost after an explosion – only to discover what was left of it in a hedge, in Bremen, Germany, as they came home on VE day.
The flag is now on display at the D-Day Story and Shirley, who is 75, is on a mission to track down the family of Lance Sergeant John ‘Uncle Jack’ Sorenson, to whom she handed it as a little girl.
‘Looking back at the flag is very emotional because it’s symbolic of the fact the tank and all its crew got back in one piece,' said Shirley.
‘To reunite the flag with Mr Sorenson’s son, who if he is alive would be a few years older than me, would mean the world.'
With the date of September 5, 2020 already penned for Pompey Pals' next event, organisers have vowed to ensure Portsmouth ‘will always remember’ the vital efforts of its military community.
Operations manager Chris Pennycook said: ‘To see this come off today is quite emotional and there are so many stories to be heard across Portsmouth.
‘Our aim is to make sure all those people from 100 years ago are remembered, but also support our current veterans today.’
Gareth Lewis, chairman, added: ‘Remembrance dying off will never happen in a city like this.
‘Every year this gets bigger, every year we get stronger and every year we get more stories.’