2021 in review in Portsmouth: October

Gary and Denise whose house in Nelson Avenue exploded in PortsmouthGary and Denise whose house in Nelson Avenue exploded in Portsmouth
Gary and Denise whose house in Nelson Avenue exploded in Portsmouth
IT WAS an emotional start to October this year for many families and readers of The News as hundreds paid their respects at the funeral of a beloved 10-year-old who died of cancer.

On October 4 brave Sophie Fairall, from Stubbington, was laid to rest with a service at Holy Rood Church in Gosport Road.

Balloons and ribbons decorated the whole of Stubbington in Sophie’s honour and hundreds of people from across the community lined the streets around the church.

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Speaking during the service, Sophie’s mum Charlotte said she was ‘so lucky and privileged’ to be the mother to a ‘princess warrior who never gave up’.

Sophie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in September 2020 and died in Charlotte’s arms a year later.

Upon her diagnosis she made it her mission to raise money to help others, including £6,000 for local hospitals.

A crowdfunding campaign for children’s cancer charity Alice’s Arc was set up following Sophie’s death and has since raised more than £80,000.

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In the same week the story of some ‘forgotten’ war veterans became immortalised as part of a new museum exhibition in Portsmouth.

Coastal Forces heroes attended the official launch of the The Night Hunters: The Royal Navy’s Coastal Forces at War display at the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower, in Gosport.

The exhibition tells the history of the small band of young, courageous men who took part in the ‘closest thing to hand-to-hand fighting’ experienced within the Royal Navy.

Established in 1916, with the aim of carrying out torpedo raids against enemy vessels and submarines, the forces played a crucial role in both the world wars and a total of 900 operations across the globe including the St Nazaire Raid, the Dieppe Raid and D-Day.

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Haywards Heath resident and Coastal Forces veteran George Chandler attended the opening.

On the day the 96-year-old told The News: ‘I’m going to be able to go home tonight and reminisce about the lads who never made it home. Now they’ve finally been remembered.’

Then, at the month’s halfway point one of the city’s most popular events made a triumphant return after it was postponed in 2020, with thousands putting their best feet forward over a weekend of races.

The Great South Run weekend, held over October 16 and 17, included children’s races on the Saturday and the main 10-mile course on the Sunday - in total attracting more than 16,000 competitors, many of whom were raising vital funds for charities.

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Some runners made headlines with their eye-catching costumes including one dressed as a hot dog and another as a post box.

And one even braved the course barefoot. Jason West, 60, from Southsea took on the challenge without any shoes in aid of his chosen charity Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders.

Controversy surrounding plans for a £1.2bn electrical interconnector came to a head on October 21 when the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng further delayed a final decision on the scheme until January.

The move prompted backlash from campaign group Let’s Stop Aquind as well as local political figures from all parties.

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October 22 then proved disastrous for one North End family when their terraced home was destroyed in a blast caused by a natural gas leak, with billowing smoke seen from miles away.

Denise and Gary were treated at Salisbury Hospital after suffering extensive burns.

To wrap up the month, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced on October 28 that Portsmouth would be receiving £20m to ‘level up’ as part of the autumn budget.

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Key areas of the city to benefit from the cash include the city’s new cruise terminal, which bagged £11.25m and the Hilsea Lido, which will be getting £3.5m

£8.75m will also be pumped into creating the longest urban park in the UK, within the city.

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