Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The Cornwell family alternated their time in Southsea with two periods in Malaya, the dates being illustrated by the birthplaces of the children. The reason for this was that William Henry's father, James Cornwell was a railway engineer and went to Malaya in 1899 at the age of 30 as he had been selected by the British Colonial Office to upgrade parts of the existing inadequate system and to lay new lines. When there he established estates, became the first (one of two) Europeans to go into the Cameron Highlands (in 1925) and introduced pasteurisation to Malaya.
James George Cornwell who married Elizabeth Moore at Portsmouth in 1892. They settled in Portsmouth until around 1899 during which time their first four children were born - George, Elizabeth, Ellen and William Henry. They were living at Kuala Lumpar when the 1901 census was taken and had two more children, Sidney and Frederick before returning to Southsea about 1904. They stayed until 1907 whilst having two further children, Leonard and David before leaving for Malaya once more. There the final two children, James and Jessie were born at Ipoh.

The family were back in Portsmouth, at 7 Clovelly Road, Milton in time for the 1911 census. During the same year William Henry began attendance at the Secondary School. At the Oxford Senior Local Examination of July, 1915, he obtained a place in the Honours Division. He remained at school some months more in order to secure Matriculation at London University and then proceeded to the Municipal College as a Scholarship Student with a view to preparation for the B.Sc. examination. His studies were, however, interrupted by a call to join the Army, and in August, 1917, he became a Private in the Artists' Rifles, officially known as the 28th London Regiment. After a short course of training at Romford, Essex, he proceeded to France in February, 1918.
With but little delay he was sent into the firing line to play a part in counter­checking the great German offensive which began on March 21st. At the end of a short period of exacting service as a Lewis Gunner he was severely wounded in the chest and removed to the Casualty Clearing Station. The next day, April 6th, he succumbed without having at any time recovered consciousness. Other details are lacking and there are no expressions of appreciation of his character and services, for there was great confusion and nearly all the Officers and men of his section were killed at the same time.
The photograph above was taken from a WW1 memorial booklet published by Southern Grammar School. Extracts also appear above.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists Private William Henry Arthur Cornwell (766781), London Regiment (Artists' Rifles), died on 06/04/1918, age 19. Buried at Gezaincourt Communal Cemetery Extension (Grave Ref: I.K.5.). Son of James George and Elizabeth Cornwell, of 7, Clovelly Rd., Portsmouth.
William Cornwell is remembered on the Southern Grammar School WW1 Memorial and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
June 2014