For Visitors – Did You Know?
The Schneider Trophy Air Race
This famous series of air races culminated in the outright win for Britain in 1931, over this part of the sea. The air race was designed to improve aircraft and engine design, and started with annual races from 1913. The outright winner had to win three events in succession. The countries competing included Britain, France, Italy and America, some with government and some with private sponsorship. There was a break in the series for the First World War, and after 1923 the race was held every two years.
Britain won in Venice in 1927, and brought the race to The Solent for 13th September 1929. This race caught the public imagination and over a million people gathered on the beaches on both sides. Even the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister were there. Ten thousand left London by train before 7am. There were all night beach parties, and the whole of Southsea beach and sea front was a heaving mass of people. The red Italian Macchi planes were beaten by the blue Supermarines from Britain to make it two in a row.
The final race was to be 1931, but because of the Depression, little funding was available. With a last minute donation from Lady Houston, the Rolls Royce engine manufacturers and Supermarine put together a vastly improved race plane in only six months. Both the main French and Italian competitors had serious problems, which left only Britain in the race so it was a walkover. This made it three in a row, Britain kept the trophy and the race series was over. However, Supermarine continued to develop very advanced planes in Southampton and a direct descendant of the Supermarine S6B that won the race was the Spitfire. You can see the S6B, Spitfire and many other exhibits at the Solent Sky Museum in Southampton
The Ferry Boat Inn
This inn was originally on Sinah Farm and was constructed using timbers salvaged from HMS Impregnable which was wrecked nearby in 1798. The licence was transferred to Ferry House, was later enlarged and called the Norfolk Inn. It was renamed the Ferry Boat Inn and it is alleged it was involved in smuggling activities.
World War II
Portsmouth played a key part in WWII as a naval base and as a launch pad for the Normandy Invasion in 1944. Some original traces remain…
The Mulberry Harbour sections were hollow concrete structures which were built on land and slid into the sea on ramps. One of the building sites was just south of the Ferry Boat Inn on Hayling Island, which must have been good for trade. The remains of the launch ramps can be seen in the shingle beach just by the car park. One of the sections was damaged and is stuck on a sandbank for all to see, in the harbour just north of the Ferry Boat Inn.
Portsmouth Naval Dockyard Today
Portsmouth Naval Base has been an integral part of the city since 1194. It is home to almost two-thirds of the Royal Navy’s surface ships, including the new formidable Type 45 destroyers, Type 23 frigates and mine countermeasures and fishery protection squadrons. It will be home to two new aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince Of Wales – which are currently being built. At 65,000 tonnes they will be the biggest ships ever built for the Royal Navy. The base is a major employer and provides lodging facilities to RN personnel serving at the base and in Portsmouth-based ships. The naval base is on a site of nearly 300 acres, which includes 3 miles of waterfront, 62 acres of basins, and 15 working dry docks.
The Royal Naval Supply Depot is the Royal Navy’s main storage and distribution facility. This provides 80% of the non-explosive stores inventory to the surface fleet and 65% of the requirements of all naval customers across the UK and ships deployed worldwide.
All Operational Ration Packs (ORPs or rat packs for short) used by HM Forces are packed in the Old Pipe Shop in Portsmouth Naval Base. The facility packs about 1.5million per year made up of 8 types of rations with a total of 37 menus, including Kosher, Sikh/Hindu, Halal and vegetarian options. At peak times a total of 14,000 people come to work in the naval base including on average 4,000 sub contractors. The naval base store is the largest facility of its kind in Europe. It is an automatic warehouse that is capable of storing items in 396,000 different locations. When fully loaded it can process approximately 2,000 transactions per day.
The naval base is home to 19 independent organisations, such as the Second Sea Lord, The Royal Marine School of Music and the Heritage site. The Heritage Area attractions include HMS Victory, Mary Rose, HMS Warrior 1860 and the Royal Naval Museum. The Heritage site attracts about 490,000 visitors each year.
The Queens Harbour Master controls some 75,000 ship movements a year. There are around 35 continental ferry moves per day as well as numerous other vessels.
For Families and non-anglers
Portsmouth is a great location for an angling weekend, and there is plenty for the family too. Southsea is a true English resort town, with promenade, gardens, beach, pier and plenty of amusements. The QHM website lists times of boat movements, so you can see when some of the big naval vessels will be coming in and out of the harbour.
The Pyramids is a swimming pool on the sea front with plenty of fun activities inside.
The Sea Life Centre on the sea front has a good collection in its aquariums.
There is an amusement park at the Portsmouth end of the sea front, it is very naff, but OK to amuse small kids if you are desperate.
The D-Day museum records the important part Portsmouth played in the build-up to the invasion, and many of the boats would have left from this area.
There are many military museums: The Royal Marines Museum, Actions Stations, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, The Mary Rose, and over the harbour in Gosport there is the Submarine Museum and Explosion! You can take a ferry across from the Historic Ships dockyard entrance.
There are plenty of shops but well scattered around Portsmouth’s many local centres. Southsea has some interesting shops, and the new Gun Wharf Quay development has plenty of shops, eating places, night life and the Spinnaker Tower.
You can also take a ferry ride to Ryde on the Isle of Wight, either by hovercraft from the sea front or fast cat from Portsmouth.