Monday 23 December 2013

Who parked that battleship in my pub?

The Still and West is a historic pub on the Portsmouth Harbour entrance with a speciality for serving good beer and fish and chips. But it was a recent post by fellow blogger Captain JP of some old movie footage of the Thames which sparked off a line of though that lead me back to old Portsmouth.

My office in London is on the south bank of the Thames next to the National Theatre and I guess pretty much where the old shot tower was. It was great to see the river as it was back in the 1950's and especially to see so much still recognisable. Youtube kindly provides related video which led me to a whole series of "Look at Life" films made by the Rank Organisation on the 50's and 60's. This is really great stuff, history in action and much will be familiar to anyone of my age.

The the film that really caught my attention was "The Last Battleship" about HMS Vanguard a ship that was laid down in 1941 but didn't enter service until the war was over, by which time submarines and aircraft carriers were they mainstay of naval supremacy.

In the early 1960's Vanguard was being towed from Portmouth to the ship scrapyards of the Clyde, just as she was making way through the narrow entrance to Portsmouth harbour she lost control and ran aground. Watch from the 2 minute mark, the film makes it sound trivial, but there was a real fear that if she stuck this vital harbour could have been closed for years. You can see the huge bows towering above the pub.

I haven't been for a couple of years but at the back of the pub there was a huge ariel photograph of the incident. The bows of the ship literally coming through the Still and West's windows and the stern swinging towards Gosport on the far side of the entrance.

The other really great Look at Life film was The Ton UP Boys - enjoy.


  1. I can report that as of March, the photo was still on the wall of the pub.

    As we took the usual boat tour of the harbor, we spotted the Still and West, and vowed we'd hoist a pint there at day's end.

    Hard to imagine anything rousting a proper Briton from his place at the bar, but seeing his local on a collision course with a battleship may have done it.

  2. Good choice O'Dock - sorry we missed you while you were here

  3. We had our work Christmas lunch there just last week - we love it for the food, and the view from the first floor restaurant area - I can confirm the picture is still there.. :o)

  4. That would have been that twerp Mountbatten who decreed she be turned into razor blades. At least HMS Belfast was saved.


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