Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Not one of the five members of Walter Henry's immediate family was born in Portsmouth, indeed none of them were even born in the same town as any other. This might not be exceptional if the head of the household followed an itinerant trade but in Walter Henry's case his father was a bookbinder, an occupation more associated with stability.
The bookbinder in question was James Wright Briggs who was born in Camden Town, London in 1855. He married his wife Eleanor in 1886, probably in Lewisham. She had been born in Bethnal Green in 1856. They first settled in Beckenham where their eldest child Alfred was born in 1887 and soon after they had moved to Croydon where their second son was born in 1889. A third move, this time to Wimbledon was followed by the birth of their third son Walter Henry in 1894.

It was in the late 1890s that the family finally made it to Portsmouth where in 1901 they were living at 92 Napier Road in Southsea. The two older boys would soon go into bookbinding and carpentry whereas in 1906 Walter Henry was attending the Secondary School on Victoria Road North. He remained there until 1908 when he left to become a clerk in the Offices of a Telegraph Company, and later at H.M. Dockyard. In 1914 he was successful in the competitive examination for appointments in Customs and Excise and became an Officer in that branch of the Civil Service.
Walter Henry did not volunteer at the outbreak of the Great War but in March 1917 he enlisted at Stratford in London as a Private in the 14th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. After a short course of home training he went to France in the autumn of the same year. His association with the battle area extended over but a few months, for he died of illness at Wimereux on the 14th February, 1918, at the age of 24 years, and was buried in the Wimereux Communal Cemetery near Boulogne.
Further Information
The photograph above is taken from a memorial booklet published by Southern Grammar School from which extracts also appear above.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website lists Private Walter Henry Briggs (243223), Hampshire Regiment, date of death, 14/02/1918, buried at the Wimereux Communal Cemetery (Grave Ref: VIII.C.20.).
Walter Briggs is remembered on the Southern Grammar School WW1 Memorial, St. Luke's Church WW1 Memorial and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
May 2014