Portsmouth pilot's funeral attracted huge turnout: RETRO

The funeral procession of Captain Wildman Lushington. Picture: Stephen Cribb/Barry Cox postcard collection.
The funeral procession of Captain Wildman Lushington. Picture: Stephen Cribb/Barry Cox postcard collection.
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The subject matter of some old postcards never ceases to amaze me, like this funeral procession travelling up Portsdown Hill. It was heading for Christ Church, Widley, for the service of Captain Wildman Lushington. What made him so prominent? 

A Royal Marine Artillery officer he transferred to the Royal Flying Corp in 1913 having the rank of Flight Commander RFC with a temporary rank of captain. 

He was the first officer of the naval wing to lose his life while flying on duty on December 2, 1913. He was 26.

Flying over Sheerness, Kent, with Capt Henry Fawcett as a passenger, the plane flipped and crashed while flying at just 50ft. Lushington died but his passenger suffered light injuries.

In his time Lushington had flown with Winston Churchill while he was learning to fly. Churchill never piloted again after the accident.

At the funeral more than 400 members of the RMA formed a detail as the coffin arrived at Cosham railway station. Funeral parties from HMS Excellent, the RMLI and the RN School of Music, plus more than 300 officers also attended the funeral.

He must have been very popular to have attracted such an attendance.

• I was inundated with e-mails about why the driver of a steam wagon that crashed in Southwick Hill Road was not taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital but the Royal Hospital in Commercial Road, Portsmouth.

Alexandra Military Hospital did not admit civilian patients until the Second World War, even though the hospital’s demilitarisation had started in 1926.

At that time it was handed over to the Ministry of Pensions to care for disabled ex-servicemen.

It does seem unfortunate that Henry Simpson could not be treated at Alexandra Military Hospital for it might just have had a bearing on the accident’s outcome.

Thanks to all of you who wrote with the explanation.

• The photograph I published on August 8 of Royal Navy boxers featured a well-known referee.

 Andy Conway tells me the referee was Jim Tappin of the Royal Marines who was also president of the navy boxing section for many years .

• My article of September 3, about who appeared at the Guildhall in 1964 along with the Rolling Stones when tickets cost the equivalent of 33p was seen by my exasperated colleague Elise Brewerton.

She recently had an invitation to see the Stones and was amazed at the ticket price... £470.  That will keep the wolf from Mick and the boys’ door for a while I guess. 

• Reader Eddy Amey remembers clearly the funfairs on Portsdown Hill in the late 1940s.

They were variously on top of the hill about where the Churchillian pub is today, but principally just to the right below the George Inn.

He remembers one year a boxing booth in a tent being one of the attractions. 

Eddy recalls: ‘Four of us kids squirmed under the tent’s side and mingled with the crowd to watch some of our local Wymering toughs try their luck against the pros.

‘After the three-bout show, in the melee of the paying audience leaving, we managed to slip under the ringside canvas and hide to eventually emerge when the next show started.

‘The professionals were in regular boxing kit while the challengers stripped to the waist but still wore their trousers and socks.’

Ian Heath mentioned his 94-year old mother Norah who also remembers the fairs.

She used to go with her parents, by bus, getting off at the Red Lion, Cosham. The fair was very popular and attracted visitors from all over the area.

Ian says: ‘I believe that some horse trading may have gone on which would not be surprising as fairs were often run by gipsy/travelling folk.’ 

Norah also remembers the Hog's Lodge pub and being taken there by her brother on his motorbike.

In those less well-off times a country fair and a trip to a country pub were real treats.

• Patricia Manley was another who saw song and dance man Danny Kaye at South Parade Pier, Southsea, on May 14, 1956.

She says: ‘I was a member of Portsmouth Land Rangers at the time and went along with, I believe, other youth organisations

‘We were tasked with carrying the flags of United Nations’ countries as it was in connection for his support for the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund.

‘We marched into the theatre before lining up around the side and back of the auditorium during Danny’s performance.

‘I don’t remember which flag I carried but perhaps others who carried flags may remember more. I was 17 at the time.’