New plaque unveiled for Gosport air-raid victims

GOSPORTARIANS joined together in an act of remembrance last week as a replacement plaque was unveiled to remember those who died on a night of air-raids during the Second World War.

Between 1939 and 1945, a total of 114 people lost their lives in Gosport as a result of air raids. According to Gosport Heritage Open Days, Gosport experienced 1,591 alerts and sixty one raids during the six years of war; being hit by more than 400 high explosive bombs with another 10,000 incendiary bombs dropped on the town.

But 1941 saw one of the worst nights of World War II for those living in Gosport as a German air-raid caused huge damage and a number of deaths across the town. Both Marina Buildings and Thorngate Memorial Hall were destroyed, whilst houses in Avenue Road and other streets were also badly hit.

A memorial plaque to remember the victims of that fateful night had previously been erected on the corner of St Edwards Road (off Stoke Road) but had to be replaced for unavoidable reasons caused by its location alongside years of wear and tear.

The commemorative ceremony held last Tuesday (March 15) was organised by Councillor Dawn Kelly of the Christchurch Ward, who organised the replacement plaque thanks to funding from Southern Co-op and its funeral care branch in Stoke Road, after the previous plaque became weather-worn and difficult to read.

The plaque now states: “Marina Buildings. This stone was laid as a memorial to the people of Gosport who lost their lives due to enemy action. Here on the night of 10/11 January 1941 Marina Buildings were destroyed in air raids. Rebuilt December 1947. Architect Ernest I. Thomas FRIBA, Builder John Hunt Ltd, Owner George Brigden.”

Dawn Kelly said: “The previous plaque started life in St Edwards Road and over the years it was moved and had become very weathered. The stone was so hard to read that it made reproducing the text a challenge.”

“It needed replacing so I was very pleased when Southern Co-op offered to do it for free via their stonemasons. It is a mark of respect for people who put their lives on the line so it is only right for it to be restored and a commemorative ceremony to mark the occasion.”

Andrea Witham, Funeral Co-ordinator at The Co-operative Funeralcare in Stoke Road, Gosport, said: “With war in the forefront of our minds, it seems even more poignant than ever to mark this occasion and commemorate all those who have lost their lives over the years.”

“With many of the people who lived through World War II no longer with us, it is important for the rest of us to take up the baton and ensure their experiences continue to be remembered.”

Special thanks also need to be paid to Haven Memorials and The Queens Hotel for their support in organising the event, which included a small gathering after the ceremony had concluded.

PICTURED BY MIKE COOTER: Councillor Dawn Kelly (Christchurch Ward) with Andrea Witham (Funeral Coordinator at Co-operative Funeral Care) in front of the plaque in Stoke Road.