Portsmouth finally pays tributes to the 1,000 ‘unsung heroes’ killed in the Blitz

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POIGNANT memories of the ‘unsung heroes’ killed in the Blitz were relived yesterday at the emotional unveiling of a new war memorial.

Families rocked by Hitler’s devastating air raids on Portsmouth gathered to mark the tribute in the city to the 1,000 civilians killed in the Second World War.

Colin Barrell and Jean Louth with Jean's late father's name H.J.Short on the memorial ''Picture:  Malcolm Wells (160906-5240)

Colin Barrell and Jean Louth with Jean's late father's name H.J.Short on the memorial ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (160906-5240)

Many of the victims were policemen, firefighters and paramedics, battling to save people from the Nazi bombardment of the city.

Others were innocent children and families who were wiped out when bombs blew up their homes.

The new monument honouring the fallen now sits proudly alongside the war memorial in Guildhall Square.

It is believed to be one of the first of its kind in the UK to pay tribute to both fallen servicemen and civilians.

I know that if my mum and dad were looking down on me now, they would be proud of what I have achieved

Jean Louth

And it is down to the dogged efforts of Havant woman Jean Louth – who led a 27-year campaign to have it built.

The tenacious 82-year-old’s work has already seen the names of 2,000 RAF and army personnel from the area, killed in the conflict between 1939 and 1945, added to the memorial.

The bid to build the tribute was sparked by Mrs Louth’s passion to honour her father, Harry Short, who was killed in action on May 26, 1940, at Dunkirk.

His body was never found. Despite his bravery, his name did not feature on any memorials in his home city of Portsmouth – something his daughter was determined to change.

There are now calls for Mrs Louth, of Wakefords Way, to be honoured by the Queen for all her tireless work.

But speaking at the ceremony yesterday, the pensioner said she never took on the project for recognition.

‘This was something I felt I had to do – not just for my father but for all those who died,’ she told the crowd.

‘I know that if my mum and dad were looking down on me now, they would be proud of what I have achieved.

‘These people deserved to be remembered in their home city.’

Families and civic leaders from across the city attended the service.

The commemoration began at 11am with a bugler playing a traditional rendition of The Last Post.

Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor David Fuller then paid tribute to Mrs Louth during a speech.

Councillor Donna Jones also praised Mrs Louth’s ‘unstinting dedication’.

‘This project started when I was a child, so to be part of this is a real honour,’ she told the crowd.

Among those in the audience yesterday were twin brothers Stan and Barry Spooner.

Their father Stanley was a policeman during the war and was killed in the Blitz.

He is one of the 1,000 names on the civilian roll of honour inscribed on the semi-circular tribute.

Stan, 76, of Denmead, said: ‘To see our father’s name here is wonderful.

‘It’s a very fitting tribute to the people killed in the city.

‘Some of those people did marvellous things but they didn’t get recognised. Well now they are.

‘What Jean has done for the families of the victims is just fantastic.’

Mrs Louth’s project began in 1989 and was backed at the time by The News.

For many years she campaigned for a new memorial to be built in the city.

She gained the support of former Liberal Democrat council boss, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackon.

More than £100,000 was raised to complete the city centre tribute, with the city council paying for the lion’s share.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson attended yesterday’s unveiling, and said other cities devastated by the Blitz should be inspired by Portsmouth’s memorial to its fallen citizens.

‘We have set a precedent in Portsmouth in that we have remembered all our servicemen and civilians killed in the war in equal measure,’ he said.

‘Other cities hit by the Blitz, like Coventry, Liverpool, Birmingham and London should follow our example.’

Speaking of Mrs Louth, he added: ‘This is her monument as much as it is everybody else’s.

‘It’s her tenacity and dogged determination that has made this all possible.

‘She has that bulldog spirit and she will never let go.’

The original Second World War memorial column was unveiled by Princess Alexandra on November 8, 2005.

The first 600 names of 
fallen soldiers were revealed in May, 2012, with the final name being added two years later.

The effort was backed by Portsmouth’s World War Two Memorial Fund, which helped with the fundraising campaign.

Colin Barrell, 78, of the trust, attended the event and praised Mrs Louth’s work.

There is still space on the wall for more names to be added. Families keen to add loved ones should contact Portsmouth City Council.