- Site History and Policy -
1. History of the site
Towards the end of 2001 a visitor to the main InPortsmouth web site sent an e-mail to the webmaster asking if there was a site listing all the names on the Portsmouth Naval War Memorial. We were fairly sure there was no such site but we checked this out with Commonwealth War Graves Commission site where we found that although it was possible to search their database to find if a particular name was on the monument, it couldn't generate a list of them all (not surprising since there are nearly 25,000 names on it).
We felt that the Naval Memorial was such an important feature of the seafront at Southsea that there ought to be a site that listed the names. From this it was a short step to the notion that there ought to be a site listing all the memorials in Portsmouth. At this point we were put in touch with the Imperial War Museum (IWM) who told us that they are in the process of collating a UK National Inventory of War Memorials (UKNIWM) and gave us the name of their local volunteer, John Owen.
We met up with John early in 2002 and suggested a collaboration on the project. John has been assembling a list of memorials in the South of England for the UKNIWM but had not been overly concerned with Portsmouth assuming that, as a Naval town it's memorials would already have been listed. The IWM provided us with a list of the 159 memorials they were aware of in Portsmouth, but a perusal of them quickly showed that it fell well short of the actual number.
There then began a systematic search for the memorials and monuments in Portsmouth.
2. Policy of Development
It did not take long for us to realise that this project was considerably larger than we had anticipated and that it was likely to take a couple of years to complete. We decided, however, that once we had collected the first 200 memorials we would launch the site and then add to it as our work progressed.
John's priority lay with the task of collating information for the UKNIWM which itself set limits on the memorials it initially wanted including. In particular it determined that their Index would concentrate on memorials that covered the Boer War, WW1, WW2 and other conflicts in the 20th Century. Our own interests went wider but we agreed to follow the IWM definition of memorials as our first priority.
Whilst searching for memorials that fitted the IWM definition we naturally came across many that did not. We therefore adopted the policy of adding memorials to our collection wherever they commemorated a person, or persons, or events associated with the armed services or any conflicts. We decided that at this stage we would not normally include persons whose memorials indicated that they were members of the armed services but which gave no record of their service. Exceptions to this rule applied where information suggested that the person concerned may have played a significant role in the history of the Nation.
3. Latest Policy
By 2005 it was apparent that we had collected almost all of the memorials with a military connection and so widened the search to cover corporate plaques and monuments as well as memorials to civilians. In doing so we found that visitors to the site were sending in further information relating to the history of the city, and, noting that there were very few other sites putting this material on the net, decided to view the site as a general historical archive, albeit still founded on the memorials. This has led to the website being regularly consulted by the Records Office, Museum and Library as well as supplying information to organisations around the world.
We then further widened the historical stream by including references to memorials and monuments that no longer existed and to incorporate information about the past in Portsmouth that did not directly relate to any surviving memorabilia. And that is how it stand in the Autumn of 2006.
By 2008 the amount of historical information had increased to such an extent it was decided to open a separate website under the InPortsmouth umbrella to concentrate solely on this subject. You can see the outcome by visiting the site at www.history.inportsmouth.co.uk