When Portsmouth's post was sorted with military precision and no one wore shorts

On January  10, 1941, the Royal Sailors’ Rest in Commercial Road, Landport, was destroyed by German bombing. Temporary accommodation had to be found and premises in London Road, North End, were used to accommodate sailors on leave.

Thursday, 24th October 2019, 1:46 pm
Portsmouth postmen prepared for the second delivery of the day at 10.30am. Picture: Stephen Cribb/Mick Cooper collection

The makeshift premises were at Northleigh House and were opened by Lady Hawke on March 10, 1941, two months after the original were destroyed.

The King and Queen sent messages of congratulations and Queen Mary’s equerry, sent a telegram saying: ‘For this occasion Queen Mary commands me to send you a message for her best wishes and to say that, undaunted by enemy assaults its [the home’s] splendid work goes forward as enthusiastically as ever.’

 So where was Northleigh House?

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Sailors outside their temporary home in London Road, North End, Portsmouth. Picture:: The News archive.

I asked Robert James who has many Kelly’s Directories from before the war.

He says it was on the north side of London Road between the Regent (later the Gaumont) cinema and St Mark’s Church on the corner of Derby Road.

After the war premises in Edinburgh Road were taken over and became popular with sailors from navies from all over the world.

• Many postmen and women today deliver mail dressed in all sorts of garb including shorts and T-shirts.

A hand-tinted photograph of the wooden Langstone Bridge. Picture: Ralph Cousins's collection.

There was a time when a formal uniform had to be worn to identify who was in charge of the King’s or Queen’s mail.

Here are postmen at Portsmouth’s central post office, with a sorting office in Stanhope Road, waiting to deliver the second mail of the day at 10.30am. Everyone is smart.

I spoke to one elderly retired postman who said it was like being in the services with strict discipline in place. Many of the supervisors were ex-military, as were the postmen.

• Many people who visit Hayling Island call Langstone Bridge (once called Langston) Hayling Bridge not knowing it passes over Langstone Harbour, hence its name. 

Two Royal Marines killed.

The current concrete bridge opened in 1956 and operated as a toll bridge until April 1960. Until then the old rickety bridge was far from safe. Bus passengers had to get off and walk over the bridge and then board again the other side.

• I was doing some research in old editions of the Evening News when I found this report from March 13, 1941, about two Royal Marines killed on the road between Whichers Gate crossroads and the hump back railway bridge on the road to Emsworth.

I expect they were based at Eastney and to think these men who would have fought for the country and were killed in such tragic circumstances is very sad.