Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The branch of the Cornhill family to which Roland Percy belonged had been established in Portsmouth for almost a century by the time of the Great War.
The earliest record comes in the 1841 census when Roland Percy's great grandfather Samuel Cornhill (b. 1811 in Brixham, Devon) was living at Stoke street with his wife Mary (b. 1811), son George William Ellicott (b. 1837) and daughter Louisa (b. 1840). Samuel was described as a Ropemaker. Two more sons, Lewis and Edwin were born shortly after and in 1851 the family is seen living in Fratton Path and in 1861 at 17 Cottage View by which time George W.E., Roland Percy's Grandfather, had followed his father into the ropemaker's trade.
George W.E. married Caroline Sarah Sherren in 1862 and by 1871 they were living at 42 Ridge Street with their children George William (b. 1866, father of Roland Percy), Lottie and Nellie. The family did not appear in the 1881 census and in 1891 they were living at 14 Playfair Road with two more daughters, Jennie and Florence. George William meanwhile had a family of his own in the household as he had married Annie Elizabeth Gurney in 1888 and their first child, Winifred, had been born in 1890. The census records that George W.E. was then living by his 'Own Means' and that George W. was a watchmaker, jeweller and electroplater.
By 1901 George W. and his family had moved to 3 Cumberland Road, Southsea and three more children had been born - Roland Percy (b. 1892), Dorothy (b. 1894) and Gladys (b. 1900). The succeeding ten years must have been rather traumatic for the family as first George W.E. died in 1901 and then Annie Elizabeth died in 1909. George W. seems not have been able to cope with the loss of his wife as by 1911 his three daughters had moved to live with their widowed Grandmother Caroline at Playfair Road, leaving just himself and Roland Percy at Cumberland Road. Caroline's house must have been rather crowded as three of Caroline's own daughters were still living at home, making seven women, all but one over 17 years of age, in a six roomed house.
The 1911 census described Roland Percy as an Assistant Fruiterer, but at some point prior to the Great War he obtained a job as a conductor for the Passenger Transport Department. When the Great War began Roland Percy was 22 years of age but did not enlist until at least April 1915. Whenever he did so he may not have seen any fighting as he died in Portsmouth in August 1915 and was buried in Kingston Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists Private RPA Cornhill, (17957), 15th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, died on 06/08/1915. Buried in Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth (Grave Ref: Buller's 6.33.).
Roland Cornhill is remembered on the City of Portsmouth Passenger Transport Department WW1 Memorial, and the Cenotaph in Portsmouth. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
March 2014