Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Born in 1890, to Walter and Alice (nee Woodthorp) Andrews, Archibald spent the whole of his life in Portsmouth living at Cemetery Lodge at the entrance to Highland Road Cemetery. In the 1901 Census Walter, then aged 39, was listed as "Registrar of the Burial Board". Ten years earlier he had held the title of Caretaker/Sexton, all of which is slightly odd given that in 1881, aged 19 years, Walter had been a Cabinet Makers apprentice.
The Andrews family seems to lived in Portsmouth for several generations as before he had moved to Cemetery Lodge Walter had lived in the household of his father George (b. 1830) who was also a Cabinet Maker, at 50 Hanover Road. Living there at the 1881 Census were also George's wife, Maria and siblings Kate (16), Ellen (8) and Clara (5). George appears in the 1851 census aged 22, occupation Cabinet maker, living with his widowed mother Emma (b. 1798) at 30 Union Street, Portsea. Ten years earlier his father Walter was still alive.
Archibald must have been an intelligent child as he joined what was later known as Southern Grammar school in 1900 aged 10 years. When he joined, the school was called the Higher Grade School, which was part of an experiment aimed at bringing mainly technical education to the children of all ranks of society. The school was founded in rooms over the Pink's shop in Commercial Road but in 1892 it had moved to a new building on the east side of Victoria Road North, roughly where Priory School is in 2013. Archibald attended for just three years from 1900-1902 before he left and joined Portsmouth Grammar School on High Street, Old Portsmouth.
Archibald justified this confidence in his abilities by carrying off various school prizes and by matriculating at London University when but 16 years of age. At the same time he displayed athletic activities and became the leader of the School Football Team.
Successful in 1907 in gaining a Second Division Clerkship, he became attached to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, and removed to London. His enthusiasm for football continuing, he became a member of the Dulwich Hamlet and Civil Service Teams, and acquitted himself so well that he was selected to play for both Surrey and Middlesex. On several occasions, also, he gained a place in representative teams appearing on the Continent.

Having joined the Territorials in 1912, Archibald was ready for the mobilisation of Forces at the outbreak of war. On 17th March 1915 he went as a Lance Sergeant with the 1/15th (County of London) Battalion (Prince of Wales's Own Civil Service Rifles) of the London Regiment, to France, and for a year served continuously on the Western Front, mostly in the Souchez area, taking part in such battles as those of Festubert and Loos. At last in the early morning of Monday, 22nd May, 1916, came the order to recapture some trenches on the Vimy Ridge, taken by the enemy the previous afternoon. B Company of the Civil Service Rifles was the first to go over the top in the face of a withering fire, No. 8 Platoon being led by its officer and Sergeant Andrews. When last seen this gallant pair were still side by side near the German barbed wire and making for the German line. Only 18 men of B Company returned.
Some days later the body of Sergeant Andrews was discovered by a patrol, and he now lies buried in the Souchez Canadian Cemetery, four miles from Lens.
By his comrades Sergeant Andrews was affectionately known as "The Driver." Those who survived him all bear testimony to his worth. One speaks of him as 'always clean and straight' and 'a leader of men.' Another says, 'We all loved him very much, he was a gay and splendid chap, such a sportsman and such a real pal that no one who knew him could help but like him. With all this he was a keen and efficient soldier and sergeant.' Others again, in making reference to his personal bravery, add : 'he was always a splendid soldier in the trenches—none better,' that 'he was very cool and collected under fire,' and that, on the last occasion of all, 'he led the attack laughing and singing.'
Further Information
The photograph reproduced is from a snapshot taken in the trenches with his own camera. It comes from a memorial booklet published by Southern Grammar School from which extracts also appear above.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website lists Lance-Serjeant AJ Andrews (530016), London Regiment (Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles), date of death, 21/05/1916, aged 26, remembered on the Arras Memorial. He was the son of Walter Finch Andrews and Alice A. Andrews. The CWGC website says the cemetery was begun by the Canadians in March 1917 which was after the date that Andrews was supposed to have been buried there. According to The Souchez Canadian Cemetery was opened in March 1916 and used mainly by the 47th London Division and the Canadian Corps. There were only about 150 burials here until after the armistice when 7000 men were re-interred there. A third of the original burials are unidentified.
Archibald Andrews name has survived on the Southern Grammar and Portsmouth Grammar School WW1 memorial Plaques as well as on the Cenotaph. His father Walter died in 1925 and his mother Alice in 1933.
Tim Backhouse
October 2013