Fratton memorials unveiled on Monday
Portsmouth Football Club will pay tribute to the men who fell in the Great War with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Fratton Park – almost 100 years since the start of the conflict to end all conflicts.
Organised by the Pompey Pals’ charity, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the battalions which were some of the first to enlist, two memorials will be unveiled outside the club’s offices in Frogmore Road on Monday August 4.
One is dedicated to Captain Edward Bell MC, a former Blues player who was killed on the Somme while serving with the 'Footballers battalion' (17th Middlesex battalion), and a main memorial stone will be dedicated to all those who served with the 14th & 15th Battalions Hampshire Regiment.
The memorials are made of slate by Dennis Johns from Stonerite Memorials, who donated his time and skill free of charge.
The unveiling will be made by Dame Mary Fagan Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire with Portsmouth Lord Mayor Cllr Steven Wylie, Penny Mordaunt MP and Pompey chairman Iain McInnes all in attendance.
Alongside the memorials will be two information boards – one has a timeline of the Pals’ battalion from the outbreak of World War One right through to the unveiling of the war memorial next to the Guildhall. The other tells the stories of various members of the battalions and of Portsmouth FC during that period.
Members of the truebluearmy.com forum, along with companies and individuals, donated money to the Pompey Pals' project, which made this permanent memorial at the club possible.
The battalions were raised on September 3 1914 by the Portsmouth and Gosport patriotic recruiting committee.
Three Portsmouth battalions were raised – the 14th and 15th, who served in France and Flanders, and the 16th which was a reserve battalion.
A pals' battalion is defined as being raised within a community by local committee and there were in the region of 144 of them across the country.
The Portsmouth battalions, like many of the pals' battalions, first 'went over the top' during the battle of the Somme, resulting in horrific casualties.
“There have been many occasions in this past year or so where pride and privilege have been the overwhelming experience associated with being the figurehead of this great club of ours,” said McInnes. “In the main they have been by way of celebrating recent achievements in the battle to regain a piece of our sporting history by a community for a community.
“Were it not for the bravery and commitment of our forefathers, including my own grandfather and I’m sure many like him associated with this city, none of that, including the very existence of this club whose ‘pals’ we seek to pay homage to, would have been possible.
“It’s with the deepest humility and the highest possible regard we salute those brave warriors and seek to remind ourselves and generations to follow ‘lest we forget’ by way of these two tokens of our sincerest gratitude.
“Great credit also is due to Bob Beech and his own battalion of pals who have driven this tribute to fruition.”
Beech, the driving force behind the project, who helped set up the Pompey Pals’ charity said: “The Pompey Pals project is proud to be working in partnership with Portsmouth Community Football Club to commemorate those from our region who served during the Great War.
“We are particularly indebted to Dennis Johns and his company Stonerite Memorials for their hard work and dedication in producing two wonderful memorial stones.”