Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

There is little documentary evidence with which to positively identify John Burns, largely because he joined the Royal Navy at an early age and was at sea each time the census was due.
We do however know that he was born in County Antrim, Ireland, on the 20th of November 1877, and that he married Rachel Margaret Rideout (b. 1879 also in Antrim) in Cardiff in 1902. John and Rachel set up home at 6 Mount Pleasant, Arundel Street, Portsmouth in time for the 1911 census, and, though once again John was at sea, Rachel is recorded with their three children, John (b. 1904), Frank (b. 1907) and Kathleen (b. 1909).
John's naval career is almost as obscure as his private life but we know that he served for long enough to have taken part in the Boer War and possibly been a member of the Naval Brigade renowned for their stand at Ladysmith. After the outbreak of the Great War he was posted to HMS Queen Mary which was present at the Battle of Jutland when she was struck by two shells causing her magazines to explode, sinking the ship. Over 1200 members of the crew, including John Burns, were lost.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists Sailmaker John Burns (182612), Royal Navy, HMS Queen Mary, died on 31/05/1916. Remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial (Panel 14). (Served as O'Brien), Son of Bridget Burns, of Crumlin Rd., Belfast; husband of Rachel Burns, of 59, Cottage View, Landport, Portsmouth. Served in the South African War.
John Burns is also remembered on the WW1 Memorial at St. John's RC Cathedral and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
April 2014