Portsmouth - September 2018

Had an absolutely brilliant day out in Portsmouth on Friday, courtesy of J. who proved to be both an excellent guide and a not ungifted connoisseur of coffee shops.

We walked through the excellent shopping centre to Old Portsmouth where you really do get a feel for the port. There were sea-going sailing ships; modest ferries going to the Isle of Wight, giant ferries going to Brittany and Spain; fishing boats and a Thames barge. More unexpectedly, we saw both a Royal Navy frigate (HMS St Albans) and Waverly, the world’s only sea-going paddle steamer.

Portsmouth - September 2018

Lunch was at The Canteen, possibly the world’s best coffee shop and certainly one of the most interesting. It occupies a former gun emplacement and it was here that we saw the St Albans as it passed by the window. The thick wave-proof and heavily salted glass gave a grey aspect to the resulting photo, which reminded me of my grandfather’s paintings of pre-First World War battleships – grey ship, grey sky, grey sea.

HMS Albion - Portsmouth - September 2018

Further along the key is a huge memorial to all the WWI naval personnel lost at sea.

A number of years ago, I visited the Registrar General’s office in London and was saddened to see that the death registers for servicemen killed in the world wars were divided into officers, non-commissioned officers and “other ranks”. A similar principle had been applied to the naval memorial which was in strict hierarchy of rank and job importance – from admiral to boy servant (2nd class).

It was a fascinating insight into the Navy of the time, which still included sailmakers,  and of the hierarchical, class-obsessed country which it served.

Portsmouth - September 2018

The best of the photos (reduced from 81 to 31) are on Flickr – Portsmouth – September 2018