In July this year I headed off to Gosport and Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, unfortunately between then and a month ago I somehow hurt my ankle and any large scale expedition became problematic. That also explains the lack of blogposts this past month. I have literally been laid up. However, I am on the mend so I headed off once again to Haslar to see how many more graves I could photograph of the potential 700+ that I was still missing.
I also wanted to try for a harbour cruise as I wanted to get photographs of HMS Illustrious who was being decommissioned in Portsmouth. She is really the last of her class and is quite a famous vessel in her own right. The harbour cruise was only running much later so I decided to return to it on my way back; so I headed to the Gosport ferry terminal.
Towering above the dockyard was the ship I wanted to photograph, and on that short ferry crossing I got my pics.
Satisfied, I headed off to the cemetery which isn’t all that far away, but that ship kept nagging away in the back of my head. I really needed to see her from the dockyard.
Haslar really has two major groupings of graves, the first being the World War 1 graves and the second being the World War 2 graves. The later is easy to identify because of the headstone, the former is categorised by the use of the Admiralty pattern headstone as pictured alongside. The problem with these headstones is legibility, the inscriptions are small and you really need to go up close to see what they say.
I was fortunate that the caretaker told me that the WW1 graves had all had their headstones replaced a few years back and they tended to stand out a bit more. The “E” Plot where most were is quite a large area and covers the era from roughly 1904 – 1938. Armed with this information I would be able to be a bit more selective of which graves to photograph and which to skip. The grave pictured is outside of my date range, but the mix of colours and textures on it is wonderful. I had roughly 700 graves to photograph and with a cloudy sky it was not too uncomfortable.
I worked my way through the graves reasonably quickly, and by 13H30 I was finished and ready to head back to the ferry terminal. There are a lot of images to process and I will be busy doing that for quite awhile. My train was scheduled to depart at 14h23, so I decided to rather try for the 15H23 train instead and go have a look around the dockyard. As I approached the marina I spotted movement, and it turned out to be a container ship inbound. It was quite odd seeing such a large ship moving through the channel, but then Portsmouth is not only a naval dockyard, there is also a ferry, cruise ship, and cargo terminal. Unfortunately I was still a bit too far away for a great pic of the vessel, Had I walked faster, or not paused at…. these thoughts do tend to go around in the head when you miss a shot like this.
I also stopped to have a look at the Holy Trinity Church which is almost a landmark on its own. Unfortunately the graveyard that I was hoping for did not exist, although there was one grave related to the clergy from the church. The War Memorial was a nice plus though, but that tower really dominated the space.
Then it was ferry time…. and in the distance was HMS Illustrious once again.
Once ashore I headed off to the dockyard. I had been there before in April last year
, so did not want to do the touristy stuff, however the queue for the harbour cruise was way too long so I decided to give that a miss. You can still access parts of the dockyard without being on a tour, and that was my aim.
HMS Illustrious dominated the scene, she really stood out, but there was an intense sadness about her. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to say goodbye to a ship that you have served on for a long time, especially if you know she is going to probably make one final journey behind a tow. As usual people are crying for her preservation, but realistically that probably will not happen. Ships are expensive to preserve, each preserved ship is like a large hole that has money poured into it, although some do manage to survive against all the odds. If it was up to me they would all be preserved. (Sadly, HMS Illustrious was towed from Portsmouth on 07/12/2016 for the breakers)
Emerging from behind HMS Dragon (replete with bow art) was the ferry Mont St Michel, she was moving very slowly, and I considered trying to race her back to the station, but I have seen her many times before so decided to give it a miss. I strolled around and looked at some of the bits and bobs, although HMS Victory is a bit big to be called a bit or a bob. I am glad to hear that the monitor HMS M33 is eventually going to be opened to the public. She is an interesting vessel, albeit slightly spartan, and it does seem a waste for her to be taking up a drydock without being able to generate any income for her preservation.
HMS Victory is still sans her upperworks, although she really looks good and on board she is really a site to see. I have visited her, and I did a retrospective report on her
. The image below I took in April 2013, and the sun was shining, unlike this grey day in September.
Then it was time to mosey off to the station, I had seen most of what I wanted to see, and I was starting to get tired. The station is not too far away and between HMS Warrior and the station I would be able to see Mont St Michel passing. I also discovered the reason for her slow pace, a nice reefer: Crown Topaz, was passing up the channel, followed by something that may have been a dredger
And then she finally came into view, although I have to admit she does not really appeal to me, with her short foredeck. I like my ships to look like ships, not like blocks of flats with pointy ends.
And then it was time to go home. It had been a very fruitful sort of day, although only once I had processed all the images would I know where we stood with completion of Haslar Naval Cemetery. I expect that there are a few graves that I have missed, but that is just an occupational hazard when it comes to grave photography. I don’t know when/if I will be down this neck of the woods again though, after all, I am still hoping to get back down to Bristol, although my ankle problem does negate that.
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 28/09/2014, images recreated 20/04/2016