Historic Events

Cosham War Diaries

 Last update 04-07-2002


Cosham, once a village in its own right, has now become absorbed into greater Portsmouth. It is situated to the north of the City by the A3, on the lower slopes of Portsdown. During WWII Cosham generally referred to the northern part of the city, but included the areas to the west: Paulsgrove (which was then fields); Wymering (partly built council estate); and to the east Farlington and Drayton which were private housing developments.

Below are extracts from the WWII Cosham War Diaries.

 


Item coded 108A/1/6/12 COSHAM WAR DIARIES

Cosham was divided into Wardens Groups :- "P", "Q", "R", "S", "T" & "V".
"P Group" was on the North-western part of the City, [of Portsmouth] a considerable area with many open spaces. When the diary was compiled and finally summarised [the latter in May 1945] it ran from Munich Crisis 1938 up to the end of hostilities in Europe. 
In 1939 the Head Warden of P group was Mr A,J, Opie who was [then] 70 years old and lived in Jubilee Avenue, Paulsgrove. But in November 1939 he resigned due to ill health and the author (of the original) was appointed Head Warden January 1940. That same month, "Q" Group joined in with "P" to encompass the entire Wymering Estate and there were 6 posts [Wardens'] over 2 miles . All lived locally and were working class men .
Site Posts as of September 1939 were at :- 

T1 in basement East Cosham House (6 Wardens) 
T2, Hut behind Southern Garage, Havant Road. (6 Wardens)
T3, (Underground shelter , Court Lane Sewage Works (6 Wardens)
12th December 1939 "W" Group amalgamated with "T" & "V" groups, so "T" took over Boundary Oak School (T4), and Uplands Road Seaview Road (T5)
T2 moved to Underground shelter at Church of the Resurrection (Penarth Avenue/Merthyr Avenue corner) on December 20th 1939. T2 was used as the HQ Post from 18th February 1940 until the end of War in Europe.
T3 post Jan 12th 1940 closed due to sewage seeping through. Next it moved to 18 Salisbury Road, thence to a Brick Surface Shelter Court Lane/Old Manor Way corner.
T4 was in a reinforced room in the Boundary Oak School. 
27th December 1941 T4 moved to an Underground Shelter Top of Portsdown Hill at the London Road/Drayton Lane angle
August 1942 ROC post adjoining T4 (Operational until August 1944).[^*^ This was either a "satellite" to the Havant ROC Post, or it was an out-station for the Observers at Fort Widley and Fort Southwick]
1945 Posts T1 & T5 closed down.
The LDV (later Home Guard), from 7th September 1940 to Mid 1942 patrolled Portsdown Hill. In T4 area a HG volunteer fired shots at a Military Lorry that failed to stop when challenged. 
T Group HQ was 168 Havant Road until 6th Jan 1945.
E,J, Brewer, Senior was Head Fire Guard until Mr Marshall took over, also, T, Eyels Fire Guard Head for West Cosham.
Public Air Raid Shelters:- Havant Road/Lodge Avenue, Carmarthen Avenue, (see above), and opposite "The George" on Portsdown Hill. Gas Detector Boards placed on top of (Post Office) Pillar Boxes in the Cosham area.

27th August 1940 21.06 to 2150 Hrs Incendiary Bombs fell on and around FORT NELSON, eventually the bombs spread eastwards, extending from FORT NELSON via SOUTHWICK to FORT WIDLEY along the top of the Hill and then due south into Wymering and along Southampton Road. Many 1,000s of ICBs [Incendiary Canister Bombs] were dropped by the enemy on the houses in "P" Group west of Portsdown School to Portsdown Road (Portchester) and Vosper's Yard were involved. In all 30 houses were ignited by the incendiary bombs. 6 were completely burnt out in Peterborough Road. 
Further west in Paulsgrove the Fort Southwick Married Quarters were also burnt out but with no loss of life. 2 Piggeries were set on fire causing trouble as horses were stabled in one, but the horses were got out but many of the pigs were burnt to death. The Night Shift at Vospers put out the several fires in the Shipyard . There was a shortage of water in Wymering so the AFS had to bring in "Mobile Dams" . Eventually all fires were brought under control . Most of the Bombs in those early days were smothered by shovels and earth and chalk.
From then on every effort was made to organise Fire Parties in each sector and instructing the public in fire prevention.
26th September 1940 had HE Bombs falling in the "P" Group area, 2 of them in Paulsgrove; One at the junction of Connaught Road and Southampton Road , the 2nd fell 200yards away on the Southern Railway. The occupants of the bungalow on Southampton Road were taken to Post P2.
29th September 1940 ; More HE Bombs on Portsdown School, Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Wymering Vicarage and Wymering Allotments. I bomb fell to the rear of Harleston Road in the Chalk Pit. The impact threw up several tons of chalk dust like unto a snow storm .
14th November 1940; A lowflying plane [from 6, evidence from other sources] dropped 2 bombs near to Coppers Farm Cottage (slight damage).
Next, the raiders flew over to Wymering ,to the [Cow Lane] Grid, but the gates were locked, so it took some time to get over them and put out the fires.
In Paulsgrove 12 houses were ignited by ICBs and were got under control by the Wardens and the residents. No heavy damage. The enemy planes Machine Gunned the streets and dropped more bombs (number not known) most of these falling in the water.[The site of impact of those bombs is now Port Solent]
The same night a HE bomb fell on Hillside Crescent destroying one bungalow. Nine people in their Anderson Shelter only 4 yards from the crater including an invalid were found uninjured and extricated.
5th December 1940; An isolated HE Bomb dropped in Peterborough Road, hit a house and killed a Part-time Warden and injured his wife.
11th March 1941; More ICBs on the Hill allowed to burn out as no danger.
16th April 1941; HE Bombs west of Washbrook Road, Wymering, one of these was a UXB [Unexploded Bomb] that was exploded 2 days later by the BDS. [Bomb Disposal Section (of the Royal Engineers, from Fort Widley), ]
17th April 1941; Wymering hit again by ICBs , but were effectively dealt with by Street (fire) Parties and Wardens.
9th March 1942; "Wymering had a hectic night". Some HE bombs on Peterborough Road, several houses destroyed, 10 fatal casualties and many more were wounded.
19th August 1942; Cow Lane/Southern Railway Line bombed. But each of the 3 bombs were UXBs . 1 went onto a RAF Balloon site nearby . The clearance of it caused "too-much Red Tape" by the RAF Disposal Unit. The other 2 both on the Railway Line were eventually removed by the BDS. This caused dislocation to Railway Traffic on the Line for 48 hours.
27th April 1944; 5 HE bombs on and around Paulsgrove Race Course. Parachute Flares that fell in the Open Ground near Painswick Close were found as containers both open and with parachutes still in the containers. These took some hours to clear by the BROs [Bomb Reporting Officers' (??)] attached to Cosham Division.
In general due to A) lack of telephones [then] on Wymering Estates and B) no Doctors and also C) No First Aid facilities, the Wardens Service became the first point of contact to give First Aid and cal out the Doctors by 'phones in the various posts.
Vosper's Yard co-operated fully with the Wardens. Post P2 became an "Observation Post" also Three "dumps" were established on the Hill for the collection of ICBs, spent Rocket Cases [from "Z" rockets] as taken off the Hill by P Group Wardens, plus jettisoned Petrol Tanks [Aircraft auxiliary Ferry Tanks etc.] Ack Ack (AA) shells, Phosphorus Bombs and Barrage Balloons "(17 in one night !)".
the last entry was the 1st May 1945.

"S" Group Cosham:- 
Initial training by Inspector BAIN & PC CAINE (1938).
1939, Highbury [Boys] Club, Dovercourt Road [ Now Highbury College ] was used to issue Respirators to the public.
Once war had started the enforcement of the Blackout caused many problems in Cosham.
29th September 1940; Portsdown School Hit (as part of the big raid detailed under "P" Group, above)
8th October 1940; 2 x 250Kg HE bombs fell on Hawthorn Crescent and Chatsworth Avenue at 1157Hrs . 1 person dead & 5 injured 
14th, November 1940; ICBs "fell in considerable numbers" on the East side of Highbury Estate. These bombs were promptly dealt with by Part Time Wardens and Street Fire Parties. 1 man who was sleeping after working a night-shift, was hit in bed by a IB that had fallen through both the roof and the ceiling . A single 250Kg bomb fell in Dorking Crescent.
4th December 1940; A bomb on a house in Park Lane. This was at first assumed to be a UXB but it turned out to be a delayed action bomb, so the house and nearby properties were evacuated and 24hours later the bomb exploded demolishing this house.
5th December 1940; 1815 to 2030Hrs:- 4 x 250Kg bombs on "Lower end of Cosham", 1 struck Highbury Buildings trapping many people in the debris (several dead, including a sailor whose body was not found for a further 5 months when the final debris had been removed, he had dived into the front door to the apartment block as the bombs fell and the building totally buried him). Post S2 under Mr Waight ,the local Head Warden, tried to clear the debris on the site thus releasing 3 persons, until relived by the Rescue Squad. The next bomb fell in Windsor Road, demolishing some houses. No 3 fell in the Railway Goods Yard [now Grahams Building Supplies] & No 4 struck the Carlton Cinema via the roof and the operating box. Some injured persons from this incident as the Cinema was showing a film at the time. [Site is now the BT Social Club]
Other minor casualties resulting from this raid were from persons caught in the open, (Slates and tiles struck heads, glass in arms and slates hitting backs of persons near to these incidents.)
11th March 1941: 4 HE bombs on Highbury estate again. More devastation and fatalities. Post S1 did excellent work. (A copy of a letter from a grateful householder was appended to this report).
4th May 1941; 2230Hrs:- A raider was hit by AA fire, dropped his bombs (ICBs on HILSEA LINES and 6 x 50Kg HE bombs on Cosham), he then crashed in flames. (site not reported to Wardens). 1 bomb fell on Colwell Road, the home of a Naval man on leave who was killed outright and a baby of 5 months was badly injured. Post S5 attended to the less severely injured.
16th August 1943; A plane "Dropped a lot of junk, mostly dud stuff" over a large area of Cosham. :- ICBs fell on Port Creek Railway Junction, and in Magdala Road (S3 area) a UXB was found and others in 1 road (Phosphorus bombs), all cleared by BRO/BDS.
23 Portsmouth Road, Cosham, became "S GROUP" HQ. It had been badly damaged during the 5th December 1940 raid and was subsequently taken over after some repairs . The canteen used vegetables grown in the garden supplying up to 24 main meals per day . (On a busy day.)

"T Group" Cosham.
11th June 1940 First German planes seen over "T" district.
24th August 1940, 8 Wardens went onto Portsea Island to help out in "E Area" (See below).
28th August 1940 0005 Hrs; Woman killed in Padwick Avenue. (Blast effect from a bomb that fell some distance away.) 
6th September 1940 0245Hrs:- "T3" Post area ; No 74 Hilary Avenue hit. 2 Dead. Excellent work by G. E. Hoar in clearing the living to safety via the emergency exit of a shelter.
14th November 1940: Stick of HE Bombs fell on "T1" Area @ 2243Hrs East Cosham House, T1 Post Havant Road, Lendorber Avenue , Woolner Avenue, Mulberry Lane & Mulberry Avenue all hit. Wardens N, E, Robinson and H, Hole rescued the Cook of East Cosham House from her wrecked upstairs room. 1 boy was killed in the Havant Road house that was hit. Gas Main in Mulberry Lane also hit.
5th December 1940:- ICBs on Portsdown Hill (T1, T2, T4 & T5 areas) 24,27 & 33 Brecon Avenue were hit through their roofs by ICBs ,also, "Guffen's House" CANAN Avenue. [This building demolished and road renamed and/or absorbed by another postwar] HE Bombs fell next:- Houses demolished @ Mulberry Lane (T1) & Hilary Avenue (T3), some fatal casualties. UXB fell @ Southlands, Havant Road junction with Park Lane. Court Lane School opened Reception Centre for Homeless Persons .
9th March 1941; AA shell splinter killed a woman at 22 Langdale Avenue (T3).
9th, April 1941; HE bombs on Junction Widley Road/Southdown Road and the road of Padwick Avenue. I dead and several houses ruined.
11th April 1941:- Parachute Mine dropped in Farlington. Warden H,W, Foyle (T5 Post) went to render assistance 
17th April 1941 2226Hrs :- HE bomb fell on Down End Road (T5), next @ 2230 Hrs HE bomb at rear of Portsdown Avenue trapping 5 persons in Anderson Shelter. (Accessed out safely after some digging. There were also Parachute Flares on top of Portsdown Hill.
3rd May 1941; AA shell exploded @ Junction Havant Road and Lendorber Avenue (T1) killing a sailor and injuring 3 others. A 2nd AA shell (UXAA) fell on No 76 Lonsdale Avenue (T3). 
7th May 1941 0059Hrs:- HE bombs fell on houses between Court Lane and Lendorber Avenue demolishing those houses. A delayed action bomb fell into 10 Lendorber Avenue, it exploded at 1545 demolishing 3 houses.
0320Hrs ICBs fell in T2, T3 & T5 areas and were speedily dealt with.
19th August 1942 @ 1920 Hrs:- AA shell hit 66 Carmarthen Avenue.
20th August 1942 , 2250Hrs A "G Mine" [*] fell on/or near Drayton Farm (Boundary of T & V Groups) [*] This was a (sea) Ground Magnetic Mine that was intended to hit the electrified Railway tracks near to the Drayton/Farlington Railway Triangle. 
September 4th 1942 (1015Hrs) :- AA Shell hit a block of Flats in Solent Road (T5) Severe damage caused.
16th August 1943, @ 0005Hrs:- Basket of ICBs fell in Portsdown Avenue (T5) .
27th, August 1944; An AA shell fell in Boundary Way (T4)
Charles F, Way Head Warden; E, S, H Cook (Head Warden early in the War) Deputy Head Wardens:- L,S, Vail (Feb 1941) and G, F, Way (both from 29th August 1939).
T,G, Martin Feb 1941 & S,L, Light.

"V" Group FARLINGTON.
6th, December 1940; @ 1929 Hrs, 3 x HE bombs on Eastern Road/First Avenue An Oil Bomb fell near No 28 Second Avenue, most of Copsey's Greenhouses badly shattered. 
Good Friday 11th April 1941 @ 0220 Hrs; 2 Parachute Mines dropped in "V" area, Farlington, 1 in Second Avenue, the other in Hardy Road,. 20 dead and 30 injured, 50 houses destroyed, 450 Houses damaged, 200 persons made homeless, Gas Main hit and caught fire.
Thursday August 20th 1942, 2310 Hrs; 200Yds West of Drayton Lane, 2 x HE bombs fell in grounds of Drayton Farm.
E,A, Dawkins Head Warden.