Wednesday 29 Oct 2014
Southampton FC and BBC Radio Solent this week helped a survivor of the city's Blitz achieve her late husband's wishes, with a tribute to his colleagues at the St. Mary's Stadium.
Producers at Radio Solent met Pauline Ellery (78) of Bitterne Park, Southampton, arranging for her to take part in a live commemorative programme, Southampton's Darkest Hour, that marked the 70th anniversary of the city's worst bombing raids. During World War II Pauline's husband Gordon worked at the Southampton gas works; now the site of Southampton FC's ground.
Before he died earlier this year, Gordon's wish was that a plaque might be installed at the stadium, recording the names of 11 of his colleagues who died in a direct hit on their air raid shelter there. Only his decision to go home for a cuppa meant Gordon escaped his friends' fate.
Gordon wasn't able to persuade former Saints bosses to erect a memorial during his lifetime. But after talking to Pauline the Radio Solent team got in touch with the club and executive chairman Nicola Cortese gave his blessing to the plan. He sent club captain Kelvin Davis to the Solent studio, to surprise Pauline live on the air on Tuesday evening (30 November).
Club Spokesman Jordan Sibley explained: "As soon as BBC Radio Solent made us aware of Mr Ellery's wishes we were delighted to agree to install a plaque at the Stadium in memory of those who lost their lives during the raid on the old gasworks site. In a season in which we are recognising the Club's 125th year anniversary, it seems entirely appropriate to acknowledge a significant part of the history of our current stadium."
Radio Solent editor Chris Carnegy, who also presented the special programme, commented: "This was an inspiring story of one man's mission to pay tribute to his friends and colleagues, and we are proud to have been the catalyst that made it happen. We should also say a big thank you to Saints and their Chairman for being so willing to get involved."
Pauline Ellery was delighted at the gesture. After recovering from the emotional surprise and accepting the plaque from Kelvin live on air she said:
"It was lovely and I do appreciate it, because it did mean a lot to him. He would have been so pleased and I'm only sorry that he's not here to see it himself."
The wording of the plaque:
In memory of those who lost their lives on this site on 26th September 1940 during a bombing raid on the Southampton Gaslight & Coke Co.
BJ St Ange
FW J Seaborn
All Saints fans. Always remembered.
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