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‘It was late November 1945, when my train pulled into Portsmouth Harbour station; I was tired after the long journey from the Isle of Man, and struggled to carry my kit which included my Hammock along the platform until I could grab a trolley.
At the age of 17 and 2 months, this was the day that I had been eagerly awaiting, the day I was actually going to sea as part of the crew of a Royal Navy ship. Strictly speaking this was not true as although I was drafted on to HMS Ranee (a lease lend aircraft carrier that had been converted to act as a troop carrier), to take passage to Sydney Australia, I was classified as a passanger not crew but on board my classmates and I were given tasks so we were not passengers in the tourist sense.
We boarded a coach and made the short trip to the dockyard and on looking out of the coach’s windows I was overwhelmed by the grey metal giants surrounding us. I was particularly fascinated by this giant Aircraft Carrier HMS Leviathan which was tied up near the Dockyard gate, and from what I learnt later, although it was launched in 1943 it was never completed and was sold for scrap in 1968.
The Portsmouth I saw was a dreary looking city with bomb craters everywhere and dominated by the Dockyard with these magnificent ships, remember as a Boy Seaman our shore leave was limited to a few hours twice a week in the afternoon and as our pay was so poor that a trip to the cinema and a cup of tea as Aggie Westons was as much as we could manage. Aggie Weston was a Sailor’s rest set up by a Barrister’s daughter who provided a place where sailors could stay without alcohol, Seamen could get a cheap meal, there were magazines in the lounge and beds in required, her homes and the Salvation Army were a blessing for young lads away from home with very little money. Both of these organisations did outstanding work.
Although the city looked drab in those post-war days, remember as a garrison city and the home of the Royal Navy it had been the target of regular air-raids from the Goering’s Luftwaffe. In 1945 there was no money or resources to regenerate the city, into the pleasant if overcrowded metropolis it has since become.
On my first visit my chance to get to know the city and its inhabitants was limited, because after a week we set off to literally the other side of the world, but with my subsequent visits firstly while in the Navy and then after marrying a Portsea girl and moving here when I retired I have grown to love the city and its inhabitants and look upon it as my ideal as a place to live out my final years.
Article submitted by – A Portsmouth Resident0 comments