Gosport is a Borough town situated on the south coast of England, within the county of Hampshire. It has approximately 85,000-100,000 permanent residents with a further 5,000–10,000 during the summer months. It is part of the South Hampshire conurbation and lies on a peninsula on the western side of Portsmouth Harbour opposite the City of Portsmouth, to which it is linked by a pedestrian ferry.
Up until the last quarter of the 20th century, Gosport was a major military town associated with the defence and supply infrastructure of Her Majesty's Naval Base (HMNB) Portsmouth. As a result of a decline in these activities, many of its fortifications and installations, such as Fort Brockhurst, have been opened to the public as tourism and heritage sites, with extensive redevelopment of the harbour area as a marina.
The Rowner area of the peninsula was known to have been settled in Saxon times, mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle as Rughenor (Rough bank or slope). Both Rowner and Alverstoke (a separate village now within the boundaries of Gosport), the name coming from the original point where the River Alver entered the Solent at Stokes Bay, were included in the Domesday Book. Settlements in the wider region date back much earlier. Rowner is recorded as being the earliest settlement of the peninsula with many Mesolithic finds and a hunting camp (presently sealed under the reclamation site) being found, tumuli are located on the peninsula (all investigated). Bronze Age items found during a 1960s construction in HMS Sultan included a hoard of axe heads and torcs (now stored by, and loaned to Portsmouth museum services). A three-celled dwelling unearthed during construction of the Rowner Estate in the 1970s points to a settled landscape. Adjacent to the River Alver which passes the southern and western edges of Rowner can be found a Norman motte and bailey, the first fortification of the peninsula, giving a high vantage point over the Solent, Stokes Bay, Lee-on-the-Solent and the Isle of Wight. The Rowner Estate, now demolished, and HMS Sultan are situated upon the former Royal Naval air station, first known as R.A.F. Gosport and later as H.M.S. Siskin and gives its name to the local infant and junior schools. The barracks at Browndown (Stokes Bay) were used in the ITV series: Bad Lads Army.
There are several theories of how the borough got its name including from the early name of Goseport which is believed to derive from 'goose'. An alternative etymology 'gorse' (from the bushes growing on local heath land) is not supported by the regional name for the plant, 'furze'. The third theory which was found in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales and used in the town's motto, "God's Port Our Haven", claims a derivation from "God's Port", King Stephen's thanks in 1144 for safe landing in a storm. This, however, is believed by some to be a 19th-century invention.
Royal Naval Hospital Haslar, formally the last military hospital of the U.K. was closed as a military site in March 2007. It was opened in 1753, serving military personnel and their families, later also serving the community of Gosport. The hospital was then used by the N.H.S. until 2009. The hospital closed as N.H.S. services were relocated to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Portsmouth.
Graves of Turkish sailors 1850–51
In November 1850, two ships of the Turkish Navy, the Mirat-ı Zafer and Sirag-i Bahri Birik, anchored off the Hardway near Gosport. The visit lasted several months and during this time some of the members of the crew contracted cholera and were admitted to Haslar Hospital for treatment, where most of them died. In addition, some other sailors died because of training accidents. In total 26 died and were laid to rest in the grounds of Haslar. At the turn of the 20th century the bodies were exhumed and transferred to the R.N. Military Cemetery, Clayhall Road, in Alverstoke.
Preparations for the D Day Landings
In the first week of June 1944, tanks, scout cars and wheeled vehicles of the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment, Canadian Army loaded Landing Craft Tanks in Gosport. Convoys of vehicles had been carefully concealed from German discovery in the areas further inland, and in daylight on 3 June moved through Titchford and Stubbington to G3 Hard on the Gosport waterfront. There, the Sherman tanks were carefully backed into position in preparation for the Channel crossing. The initial plan was for the invasion to begin on 5 June but bad weather, with the various vessels riding at anchor off Calshot in the Solent, delayed the plans by one day.