Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Both Victor George and his father William Henry Cassell were Portsmouth born and bred, but it is not clear if this also applies to earlier generations. William Henry first appears in the census of 1881, despite having been born at Portsmouth in 1864. His father was not listed, but his mother was named Martha and she was born at Gosport in 1824. With Martha were her children Charles, William Henry, Edwin, Celia, Arthur, Herbert, Edgar and Walter and they were living at 40 Victoria Street, close to Charles Dickens' birthplace on Commercial Road. William Henry was listed as a Carpenter's Apprentice.
Ten years later the 27 year old William Henry was still living with his mother but the family home had by then shifted to 35 Agincourt Road, off Sultan Road, Buckland. In 1895 he moved out when he married Bessie Stote and together they set up home at 35 Blackfriars Road and later at 106 Jessie Road, both in Southsea. Over the years they had six children - Victor George (b. 1896), William Edgar (b. 1897), Arthur Henry (b. 1898), John (b. 1901), Lilian Bessie (b. 1903) and Edwin Herbert (b. 1904). All but one survived infancy. Throughout this period William Henry had plied his trade as a carpenter.
The 1911 census did not record Victor as living with his parents but rather as a visitor in the household of A. Willis and his wife Eliza Jane at 20 Talbot Road, just round the corner from the parental home in Jessie Road. The CWGC record states that Victor was the foster son of EJ Willis but there is no evidence to suggest this is correct, perhaps it was just a convenient arrangement for all concerned as the Willises had no children of their own and would have had space to house the young man.
At the outbreak of the Great War Victor would have been 18 years old and therefore eligible to enlist in the army. Whether he did so immediately is not known but at some point he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. Again, it is not known if he served abroad because he died in 1919 in Portsmouth, possibly a victim of influenza.
Victor's brother Arthur Henry Cassell also lost his life in the Great War.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list Private Victor George Burton Cassell, (461517), Royal Army Medical Corps, 3rd Wessex Field Ambulance, died 15/05/1919, age 23. Buried at Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth (Grave Ref: J.4.16.). Foster son of E. J. Willis, of 20, Talbot Rd., Southsea, Portsmouth.
Victor Cassell is commemorated on the Trinity Methodist Church WW1 Memorial and the Cenotaph. He is not listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X.
Tim Backhouse
September 2014