Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The history of the Coster family in Portsmouth certainly goes back to the 1850s and very probably before that. The earliest record is for George Arthur's father James Alfred who was born in Portsmouth in 1851 but he doesn't appear in any census record until 1881, which suggests that his family was abroad; possibly his father was a soldier.
The marriage records for 1873 show James Coster marrying Amelia Louisa Ford (b. 1852 in Westbourne, Sussex). Amelia already had a daughter, Ellen (b. 1870 in Eastbourne, Sussex) but it's not known whether James was the father. In 1881 James and Amelia were living at 53 Gloucester St., Portsea with Ellen and three more daughters who were the first of thirteen children born to the couple. 4 are known to have died before adulthood.
The family are not recorded in the UK by the census in 1891 but ten years later they appear at 48 River Street with seven children including George Arthur who was born in 1886. James's occupation is recorded as a bricklayer in HM Dockyard. The 1911 census shows that the family moved a few doors down to 10 River Street and that only four children, again including George Arthur were still at home. George was described as a storekeeper.
At the outbreak of the Great War George Arthur did not enlist with the first wave of volunteers but eventually did so in March 1916. He was not despatched to France until September that year by which time he was a member of the Royal Engineers Special Forces which were laregly concerned with the deployment of poison gas. He was present in several major actions but was killed in May 1917.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists George Arthur Coster, Sapper (154497), Royal Engineers, "Q" Special Company, died on 24/05/1917. Buried in the Ferme-Olivier Cemetery (Plot 3. Row D. Grave 10.). Son of the late James and Amelia Coster, of Portsmouth; brother of Mrs. Emma Francis Harwood, of 22, Claxton Street, Landport, Portsmouth, Hants.
George Coster is remembered on the WW1 Memorial at St. Luke's Church and on the Cenotaph. He is listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War', Section X, p53.
<Tim Backhouse
April 2014