Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The Bevis family had been living in Portsmouth since the 1840s when Albert John's grandfather, Robert Bevis, moved to the Borough from Teddington in Middlesex. The reason for the move in unknown but it may have had something to do with Robert's trade as a bricklayer.
Robert was born at Hampton, Middlesex in 1824 or 1826. He had already left home when the 1841 census was taken as he was living in lodgings at Teddington and by 1851 he had made the move to Portsmouth where the census recorded him living at 5 Percy's Place, Landport. The record also shows him living with his 'wife' Alisha but there is no trace of a marriage to her and in any case the relationship did not last long as he soon moved on to marry Mary Ann Abraham in 1855 with whom he took a house at 82 Surrey Street, Landport.
The 1871 census shows Robert and Mary at No. 84 Surrey Street whilst the 1881 census lists them at No. 86 Surrey Street. During this period they raised a family of nine children, the seventh being Albert John (b. 1871) who was to become the father of Albert John jnr. Robert Bevis died in 1888 and though most of her children were by then able to look after themselves Mary Ann took on a job as a shopkeeper whilst her son Albert John began life as a fish salesman.
In 1896 Albert John snr. married Ellen Mary Baker of Portsea and the couple moved first to 30 Ivy Street and later to 39 Cumberland Road, off Somers Road. During this time they had four children, Albert John jnr (b. 1897), Frederick William (b. 1900), Gertrude Ellen (b. 1902) and Henry Edwin (b. 1908).
In 1914 Albert John jnr. was 17 years of age and when the Great War broke out he was quickly mobilised. As he served with the Royal Marine Artillery it suggests that he was already on their reserve list. He saw much action in the North Sea and fought at the battles of Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank. In 1916 he was given leave to marry Mary Matthews, a cigarette cutter and daughter of Charles and Mary Matthews of 111a St. Thomas's Street. Circumstances would have ensured that the couple never had a chance to set up a home so whatever time they had together would have been at St. Thomas's Street.
Albert John was aboard HMS King George towards the end of the war when he fell ill, possibly from influenza, and died in England on the first day of 1919.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list Gunner Albert John Bevis (13514), Royal Marine Artillery, HMS King George, died 01/01/1919, aged 23. Buried at Highland Road Cemetery, Portsmouth (Grave Ref: North Wall E.3.20.). Son of Albert and Ellen Bevis; husband of Mary Ann Patience Bevis, of 111A St. Thomas's St., Portsmouth. Born at Portsmouth.
Albert Bevis is commemorated on the Cenotaph and on the original plaques of the Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral WW1 Memorial Cross. He is listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X, p20.
The original plaques on the Cathedral WW1 Memorial Cross deteriorated to such an extent that at some later stage, possibly in the 1950s they were replaced. Unfortunately the names on the plaque could not all be read and two of them, including AJ Bevis were inadvertently replaced by other eligible names. The full story can be read at the Memorials in Portsmouth website.
Tim Backhouse
October 2014