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The Affect of War on the City
The Affect of War on the City
The World Wars
During World War One the Government considered Portsmouth Royal Dockyard a target for espionage and tightened security with extra Metropolitan Police. The town (Portsmouth did not become a city until 1926) was also target for German air raids during both wars. During World War Two Portsmouth experienced a blitz attack when the Germans subjected the city to a massive bombing campaign.
Portsmouth suffered 67 bombing raids with 1 581 alerts. The Luftwaffe dropped more than 40 000 bombs and mines on the town and dockyard causing more than 6 500 properties to be completely destroyed and damaging another 75 500. The heavy bombing prevented the Royal Navy sending its capital ships to Portsmouth for repair.
Later in the War Portsmouth was central to the planning of the D Day landings of 6 June 1944. As early as 1942 the Navy was designing, constructing and testing parts of the Mulberry Harbours and many of the landing crafts in the dockyard. Operations for D Day were run from Southwick House on Portsdown Hill, overlooking the city and harbour. Follow the link to find out more about Portsmouth’s D Day role .
During the War Portsmouth Command spread along the south coast to Newhaven in East Sussex and Portland in Dorset and north into Surrey. Due to the bombing campaigns, many of the shore establishments based in Portsmouth moved out of the dockyard. HMS Dryad moved from the dockyard to Southwick House and the Signal School, HMS Mercury, established itself in Leydene, Petersfield.
As a Home Port personnel losses to the Command during both World Wars were substantial. On 15 October 1924 the Duke of York unveiled the Royal Naval War Memorial for World War One on Southsea Common which lists the names of 9 729 members of the Portsmouth Command and 21 civilian employees. After World War Two, the monument was extended to include the 15 000 naval losses of the Portsmouth Command. It was unveiled by the Queen Mother on the 29 April 1953.
Reduction of the Royal Navy post World War Two
During the Cold War the Navy based 70 escort vessels in the dockyard in case of the need to protect Atlantic convoys. In 1969 the Government abandoned the Royal Navy’s commitments East of Suez. The Navy pulled out of the Far East and reduced the fleet. From then on the Royal Navy would mainly concentrate on NATO commitments.
In 1969 the Royal Navy abolished the post of Commanders-in-ChiefPortsmouth and Plymouth having already got rid of the post of C-in-C Nore eight years before. They appointed a Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command, who was stationed at Portsmouth.
This post was short-lived as the Royal Navy made more reductions to their surface fleet. By 1971 the whole fleet was consolidated under one Commander-in-Chief Fleet, based in Northwood, Middlesex. This command eventually came to Portsmouth and the C-in-C Fleet is now based at HMS Excellent on Whale Island, Portsmouth.
The Navy planned further cuts but in 1982 Portsmouth rallied to provide ships for the Falklands Conflict. Follow the link to read about how the Falklands Task Force prepared for war .
On 1 October 1984 Portsmouth lost its status as a Royal Dockyard and was reassigned the role of being a naval base and a major operating port. Today, the Portsmouth is the base port of 60% of the Navy’s surface ships with the remaining 40% based at Plymouth.