Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

At the outbreak of the Great War there must have been many young men who would have preferred to follow their father's into their branch of the services. If the father was in the navy or marines however, that may not have been an option as the maritime forces were up to strength by the end of August 1914. This may have been the case with Victor John Course as both his father, William Henry, and his grandfather, George, had been members of the Royal Marines with continuous periods of service totalling more than 60 years.
George Course first appeared in the 1851 census when he was a Drummer in the Royal Marine Artillery, based at barracks in Portsmouth. Two years later he married Jane Rampling. In 1861 George, by then a Corporal in the RMA, was serving aboard HMS Ringdove whilst Jane was looking after four children under the age of 6 years at 8 Warwick Street, Southsea.
By 1871 George had been promoted to Sergeant and for the census that year was living at Highland Terrace, Highland Road with his wife and five children. William Henry was the third child listed which suggests that two of the older children had died. In 1881, by the age of 16 years William Henry had followed his father into the Royal Marines where he was a bugler; that year however he was recorded as being in Haslar Hospital.
In 1889 William Henry married Alice Slaughter but must have been posted overseas shortly after as he is not present for the 1891 census whilst Alice was living with her parents in Worthing. By 1901 William had changed jobs and become a steward, though it's not clear if this was within the navy or not. He and Alice had set up home at 30 Grosvenor Street, Southsea and had four children, the eldest being Victor John.
The following census, in 1911, saw the family unchanged, still living at Grosvenor Street, but with the eldest three children all unemployed. This couldn't have lasted long because Victor John found work at the Gas Light Company.
Victor John did not enlist with the first wave of volunteers at the outbreak of the Great War, waiting instead until February 1915 when he joined the Wiltshire Regiment. His unit was sent to Salonika where it was engaged in battle. The following year he was posted to France where he saw more fighting but eventually died in November 1917. He may well have been injured on the battlefield and transported to hospital before expiring as there was a Casualty Clearing Station at Bethune where he was buried.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists Private Victor John Course, (24461), 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment, died on 04/11/1917, aged 26 years. He is buried at Bethune Town Cemetery, Grave Ref. VI.H.8. Son of Alice Kate Course, of 30, Grosvenor St., Southsea, Portsmouth.
Victor Course is remembered on the Portsea Island Gas Light Company WW1 memorial in Guildhall Square, and on the Cenotaph. He is listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War', Section X, p54.
Tim Backhouse
February 2014