Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

In the late 1880s William Henry Hopgood, the father of Ernest Charles, left the Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI) and moved his family from Gosport to Portsmouth. The reason for this is not obvious as the distance between the two towns is small but the ease with which new employment could be sought was perhaps significant. As it happens William soon found work as a 'driller' at Portsmouth Dockyard which may have vindicated his decision.
William had actually been born at Newport on the Isle of Wight in 1849 and seems to have joined the RMLI at an early age. He does not appear in the censuses for 1861 and 1871 which means that his first appearance in the records was in 1877 when he married Alice Sarah Reeves in Portsmouth. She was a native of the town, born in 1860 and therefore only 17 years of age when she married the 28 year old William.
The 1881 census records the couple living in Gosport where William was still in the RMLI, as a musician whose principal instrument was the clarinet. With William and Alice were their first three children, William, Francis and Robert, born in 1878, 1880 and 1881 respectively. The census of 1891, which was the first after the family's move to Portsmouth, listed them at 80 Dickens Road, Buckland, and included three more children, Alice, Frederick and John who had been born in 1884, 1885 and 1888, all in Gosport.
William's job at the Dockyard did not last long as in 1901 he was described in the census as a Corporation Sweeper. It was fortunate then that William had a pension from the RMLI as the wage a labourer brought home would hardly have been adequate to support a family which by then had another five mouths to feed. The youngest children were Joseph (b. 1892), Ernest Charles (b. 1894), Richard (b. 1896), Minnie (b. 1888) and Leonard (b. 1900). A move to Havant Road, North End had preceded the 1901 census and the road continued to be the location for the family home until after the Great War.
The 16 year old Ernest Charles Hopgood had been described as a 'grocer's messenger' in the 1911 census which may not have held out great prospects but apparently the attractions were sufficient to hold him back from enlisting during the first wave of support for the Great War. Eventually, in February 1915, he decided to join up and he was posted to the Royal Field Artillery which landed in France three months later. He died at Ypres in July 1915, just two months after the landing.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists Ernest Charles Hopgood, Gunner (94120), Royal Field Artillery, died on 20/07/1915, age 21. Buried at Ramparts Cemetery, Lille Gate, Belgium, (Grave Ref: B.23.). Son of William Henry and Alice Sarah Hopgood, of 14, Havant Rd., North End, Portsmouth.
Ernest Hopgood is commemorated on the Cenotaph in Guildhall Square. He is listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War', Section X, p315.
Tim Backhouse
February 2015