Portsmouth remembers sacrifices made at Battle of Somme 100 years on

RELATIVES of the youngest soldier from Portsmouth to die on the Somme battlefields during the First World War say they will '˜never forget' the ultimate sacrifice he made for the sake of their freedom.

Monday, 12th September 2016, 6:05 am
Updated Thursday, 15th September 2016, 3:57 pm
A wreath is laid at the Guildhall Square Cenotaph by Pat Hill, a relative of George Jakes, the youngest soldier from Portsmouth to die in the Battle of the Somme Picture Ian Hargreaves (161221-4)

George Jakes was just 15 when he left with the city’s two Pompey Pals battalions 100 years ago to fight the Germans on French soil.

And loved ones who have always remembered the heroic yet devastating price George and hundreds of others paid gathered at Guildhall Square’s Cenotaph on Saturday to reflect and pay tribute. They were joined by community leaders to mark the centenary of the Battle of Somme, which rocked Europe to its core and resulted in 60,000 British casualties on the first day alone.

That included 757 men from the Portsmouth area killed or wounded in the 141-day First World War conflict.

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Keith Jakes, 55, George’s great nephew, said: ‘It’s a huge occasion for us.

‘He fought for our freedom as a child and gave us the freedom to live the lives we lead today. It’s a great honour to have a bloodline like that.

‘As the rain came down it made me think of what George and others went through; the cold, the damp and the rain, the suffering and the horrors they faced.

‘And yet they found it within themselves to go over the top. It was the ultimate sacrifice and we’ll always remember what they did.’

George’s name is etched on the First World War memorial at the Cenotaph, along with his brother’s, Edwin, who also died during the conflict.

Wreaths were laid as Portsmouth Military Wives Choir sang, while 18-year-old bugler Sam Gibb, who stepped in to play two hours before the ceremony, performed the Last Post as veterans stood proudly with flags. Prayers and a moment of silence also gave visitors the chance to remember.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, spoke of the ‘carnage in the mud of France’ – and paid tribute to Portsmouth for the way it kept going after the devastating battle.

She said: ‘The Somme was not the end for Portsmouth’s Own. The official record of the Great War details those battles that had become bywords for the horror of war – Passchendaele, Messines, Ypres amongst them – and the Pompey Pals had served at them all, and all the while Portsmouth carried on.’