general

RADAR AND SIGNALS

     An experimental section of the Signal School and an Admiralty Signal Establishment had existed since 1917, when the task was devolved from HMS Vernon. It had moved to Eastney to study Radar direction finding, with appointments being made there from 30 December 1935, but the apparatus not arriving until 14 July 1936. With the moving of the main signal school to Leydene House the Admiralty Signal Establishment also moved, in April 1941, and was established in Lythe Hill House, Haslemere. The Production department had been set up in Whitwell Hatch Hotel at Haste Hill, Haslemere by the end of May that year, with a small part of the establishment remaining at the old Signal School in Portsmouth.     

     This became independent in August when the main facility moved. Soon after the opening of the main centre of HMS Mercury, the Experimental Section in Lythe Hill House and the Production and Development Section at Whitwell House were commissioned as HMS Mercury on 25 August 1941, and opened as an independent command on 27 August. Later developments saw the establishment of laboratories and workshops at King Edward's School, Witley, valve production going to Waterlooville and aerial manufacture to Nutbourne. Trials were carried out at Tantallon, near North Berwick. 
     During its time in operation, HMS Mercury II had two nominated depot ships, FMB 3521 from 27 August 1941 until July 1946, and MFV 1016 from July 1946 until she was sold in May 1947. This HMS Mercury II remained in operation until mid 1952. The name then passed to the Admiralty Signal and Radar Establishment in Portsdown, Portsmouth. This base remained HMS Mercury II until 1969. 

 

LOST FOR 77 YEARS

     HMS Urge was a British U-class submarine of the second group of that class, built by Vickers Armstrong in Barrow-in-Furness. She was laid down on 30 October 1939 and was commissioned on 12 December 1940. From 1941-2 she formed part of the Submarine Flotilla based in Malta and was the only Royal Navy ship to have borne the name. Urge spent most of her career operating in the Mediterranean, where she damaged or sank a number of mostly Italian warships and merchant vessels and took part in special operations. She was commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Edward P. Tomkinson, DSO, RN. In 1975 a building at HMS Dolphin in Gosport was named after Lieutenant-Commander Tomkinson, alongside others named after other leading Royal Navy World War II submarine captains. Reports in late October 2019 stated that remains of the submarine had been found off the coast of Malta.
     HMS Urge put to sea on April 27th but failed to make an expected rendezvous in Alexandria on May 6th. with 29 crew and 10 passengers. Until the discovery of her wreck in 2019, her final fate was not completely certain. It was believed that the submarine was most likely sunk by a mine (while she was still on the surface) soon after exiting the Grand Harbour. Other reports suggested the vessel was sunk by an Italian dive bomber while attacking an Italian ship off Libya. The explosion was so violent that the bow of the submarine became detached and she sunk suddenly, with no survivors. 
     The Second World War submarine which was built with money raised by the people of Bridgend, South Wales, has now been found 77 years after vanishing with 44 people on board in 130 metres (430 ft) of water two miles off the coast of Malta. The search was conducted by staff from the University of Malta, in an area that had been heavily mined during the war. The UK Ministry of Defence confirmed the wreck is the missing submarine. The wreck has heavy damage to the bow consistent with striking a mine. The rest of the wreck is said to be in "fantastic condition." A ceremony to declare the site an official war grave will take place in April next year.

 

 

PARISHES

HIM and HER in 1840

     The 20-year-old Queen Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace in London on 10th February, 1840. They went on to have nine children together.

 

BUSY, BUSY MILLERS

     At the beginning of the last century there were as many as 200 working mills in Hampshire, although very few have survived until today. Most of the mills were situated on the many chalk streams in the county, which provided the power needed to turn the machinery, but these were costly to maintain and corn iron and paper production dwindled away.

 

NEW SCHOOL IN 1840

     Southampton’s Highfield Church of England School welcomed its first pupils in 1840 to its original premises, comprising the Master’s House and one classroom. At that time Highfield was considered to be a rural community with pupils attending a country school, which served as agricultural area. In 1869 the school logbook reported: “School short, haymaking” while a year later says: “Grass crop, a failure.”

 

ALL FOR A KNOCK ON THE HEAD

     Back in the 18th century Hampshire people convicted of even the most trivial offences faced harsh punishment at the hands of judges sitting in local courts. For instance, one local man was sentenced to “two months of hard servitude” at Winchester prison after being convicted of stealing a piece of bread. Another defendant, who knocked a man on the head with a stick in the New Forest, was ordered to be transported to Australia for the rest of his life.

 

IRISH MASS STARVATION

     The potato crop, which formed a staple of the Irish diet, was destroyed by blight before it could be harvested in 1846. Agitation in and outside Parliament caused by the food shortages led prime minister Sir Robert Peel to repeal the Corn Laws, which artificially inflated the price of grain in the interests of landowners and made it impossible for Irish people to buy bread. One and half million people died in the famine, and another two million emigrated to more hospitable shores, mainly the  USA.

 

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHTER

     Four War Memorials in Hampshire have been listed at Grade II on the advice of Historic England. Built in the aftermath of the First World War the memorials were among tens of thousands that were erected across England in memory of the many people who lost their lives in the conflict, never to return home.
In place of graves, these memorials became focal points for local communities to mourn and honour their dead. Shipton Bellinger, Ewshot, Aldershot Cenotaph and Ecchinswell are the four newly-listed monuments in the county which will now be preserves and protected.

 

HOLY ROOD

     Originally known as ‘Holie Rood’ in the 16th Century, Southampton’s Holy Rood Church, in the High Street, can trace its history back for more than 1,000 years. Stone from Caen in France, was brought to Southampton for use in the construction of the church, which has always been closely linked with ships and seafarers. In earlier times sailors would say prayers in the church before voyages and again on their return to port.

 

FROM THE ARCHIVES

     8th November, 1819 Hampshire Chronicle
Should this not have been 2019? Has nothing changed?

     A correspondent observes that the present distress of the country does not appear to rise from the state of the money market, or any default ruling powers, but chiefly from the poverty of the continent of Europe and its consequence, the want of market for our manufacturers.

 

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PAIN-FREE SURGERY ARRIVES

     Professor Robert Liston performed the first operation under anaesthesia in Europe on 21st December, 1846 when he amputated a man’s leg after administering ether. In November 1847, obstetrician James Young Simpson became the first to demonstrate the anaesthetic properties of Chloroform on humans in an obstretric case in Edinburgh.

 

THE FOX & HOUNDS

     The Fox and Hounds is a centuries-old public house which sits in a small valley known as Hungerford Bottom in Bursledon and was probably built to quench the thirsts of local ironworkers. These men smelted local iron and then produced various items which were needed in the construction of wooden warships on the river at Bursledon.

 

A QUEEN AT 18!

     The 18-year-old reached the throne because although William IV had ten living children, they were all illegitimate and did not count; her uncle George IV also had no legitimate heirs; and her father, the Duke of Kent, had died when she was a baby.
Supporters of the monarchy hoped that the young queen would add vigour and wholesomeness to an institution that had become jaded. She seemed set to satisfy their needs, as an outdoor person with a loud laugh who liked horses, dancing and games.
The young girl was Victoria and she was woken up on 20th June, 1837 to be told that the king, William IV had passed away.

 

OCCUPATIONS

housekeeper - Originally this meant the owner of a house. The term later came to mean female head servant who was answerable to the lady of the household and dealt with bedding, cleaning, and the sraff involved.. She was a female version of the house steward.
maskell - Originally a blacksmith who specialised in shoeing horses (1.e. a farrier) but later the title was used to describe an official or a marshall of military forces.
plater - Welder of metal plates in the shipping industry for boilers, ships, sides etc. Also person in a large restaurant or on a cruise ship (e.g. the Titanic) carrying dirty plates to the washer-up or clean plates from the washer-up for re-use.
serf - An agricultural worker, who though not the property of any man, was a virtual slave because of his ties to his lord’s lands. The official line was that though not a slave, they were ‘unfree‘.
soap boiler - A skilled trade as a soap boiler had to know the correct mixtures and ingredients to make a variety of industrial and household soaps using fats, oils, quick-lime, soda and potash as well as the art of perfumery. Soap was once heavily taxed and soap boilers had to inform the excise officers 24 hours before making soap.

 

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