Outrage as thugs trash historic Portsmouth fort set to become new First World War museum

Naval veteran Allan Thompson, 85, who has been refurbishing the museum site for the past two years Picture: Tom Cotterill
Naval veteran Allan Thompson, 85, who has been refurbishing the museum site for the past two years Picture: Tom Cotterill
  • Vandals smashed windows and graffitied walls – just days before the city marks 100th anniversary of soldiers killed in the Battle of the Somme
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MINDLESS hooligans have disrespected the memory of First World War heroes by vandalising a new museum honouring all those killed in the conflict.

Thugs have caused thousands of pounds of damage to the historic Bastion Six fortification in Hilsea by launching bricks through windows and spray-painting walls.

The sickening crime has jeopardised plans to move the World War 1 Remembrance Centre from Fort Widley into the 19th century defence, creating the city’s latest heritage attraction.

And it comes just days before the city rallies to commemorate the hundreds of soldiers from the Pompey Pals regiments killed 100 years ago in the Battle of the Somme.

Disgusted volunteer Allan Thompson, 85, has spent two years refurbishing the historic military fortification in preparation for the long-awaited move.

He discovered the damage on Wednesday morning and was left horrified. The naval veteran said: ‘This is heartbreaking. They ought to bring back conscription to teach these thugs a thing or two.

‘This is disrespecting all the people who fought in the First World War.

‘Their ancestors probably fought in the war. So to do this is shocking.’

The building forms part of the historic Hilsea Lines defences.

Built in mid-19th century, the fort has played crucial roles in the First and Second World Wars.

The site used to provide protection for Spitfire parts during the Battle of Britain and was a key munitions hub in the Great War.

After spending some time as an storage area, the battlement was abandoned.

But two years ago, leaders of the World War 1 Remembrance Centre revealed ambitions to convert the site into a new heritage attraction.

Since then, volunteers have been working to clean the site, replace windows and redevelop the derelict interior.

Ben French is on the museum’s board of directors. He said the expansion was needed to accommodate all the First World War memorabilia donated by city residents.

He said: ‘This is meant to be our new home. We’re hoping to move the current museum from Fort Widley in January.

‘For this to happen is horrible. I don’t understand why people would do this.’

Mr Thompson added: ‘This could be the best blinking museum in the whole country.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘The windows at Bastion 6 were loving restored by a Royal Navy veteran, who hand-puttied hundreds of panes in place.

‘I watched him work over last summer and he was pleased to have been contributing to such an important project. What these vandals have done is so dreadful, but it will not set this project back, I am determined of that. We must all get behind them and show them they have our support.’

Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones said she was ‘deeply disappointed’ to hear of the attack.

‘Hilsea Lines played a key part in the city’s defences during the Second World War and it’s sad this historic heritage asset has been vandalised,’ she said.

Police are investigating the crime, which took place between 10pm on Tuesday and 11am on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the force said: ‘An unknown number of offenders smashed windows to gain entry to the centre.

‘Spray paint has been used to cover windows and the inside of the building.

‘We are investigating this incident. No arrests have been made at this stage.’

Call police on 101, quoting 44160337080.