The journey to Portsmouth on the ferry is one I have made more times than I can recall and one of the landmarks that is embedded in my mind is the Naval Memorial on the front at Southsea. This obelisk is a clear sign of either arriving or leaving but it is something that I have never actually looked at in any detail. After we departed the Island on our last trip, we stopped off on the seafront at Southsea and walked along to the monument to check it out.
The obelisk is all I had in mind previously, but the memorial is so much more. The original monument was created after the First World War for all the seaman that lost their lives. There are many panels around the column with names and ranks of seamen. Just looking at the different roles of sailors in that era of ships is interesting and to think of them all lost is sobering.
The memorial was expanded after the Second World War. The walls surrounding the tower and the columned end sections were added along with sculptures of sailors. The detail of them is impressive considering how long they have been exposed to the sea air and the Woolly sweaters, boots, beards and hats have a very authentic feel to them. I find it hard to believe I have passed by this memorial all my life and only now did I stop to look and appreciate it.
The Society of Aviation History organized a visit to Mare Island recently and I went along. The tour started at the museum and walked to a number of locations before ending up back at the museum which we were then free to roam around. I will start at the end today and cover a little about the museum itself. That should set the scene for the follow up posts about elements of Mare Island that we took a look at.
Mare Island was a naval shipyard. From its earliest days it grew into a major shipbuilding facility. In its later days, it was involved in building many nuclear submarines. Ultimately, as part of the reduction in bases undertaken in various phases around the US and beyond, Mare Island was closed as a naval facility and returned to the local community. Much ship related work is still undertaken but the location is a faction of what it once was.
The museum has a lot of displays of what went on at various stages in the history of the yard. Outside there are some missiles and cannons on display covering old wooden frigates through to a Polaris missile from a nuclear ballistic missile boat. The submarine theme shows up in many of the displays and a periscope has been recovered from a submarine and erected in the museum. You can operate it and survey the surrounding area. The clarity of the optics is quite amazing.
The running of the museum is not cheap – not least because the local town of Vallejo charges them a substantial tax each month. Therefore, getting people to visit is an important issue for them. If you have a free day, I would certainly pay them a visit and see a little of the shipbuilding history of the area.