Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War


Naval towns like Portsmouth, with their high demand for uniforms, have traditionally fostered the tailoring trades. It's not known to what extent, if any, Walter Cronin (Tailors and Outfitters) Ltd. was involved in the production of uniforms but it is known that the Cronin family lost one of their sons, Leslie Reading, in the Great War.
The famaily connection to the tailoring trade may well have arrived in Portsmouth with Leslie Reading's grandfather Joseph who was born in Ireland and probably married his wife Jemima there before emigrating to England. At the 1871 census Joseph and Jemima were living at 18 Peel Street, near King Street, Southsea, with their three children Rosina, Walter and Herbert. Joseph's occupation was described as 'Outfitter's Foreman'.
Ten years later the family had moved to 47 Hanover Street and Walter, Leslie's father and future founder of the Outfitters Company, had already become an apprentice tailor at the age of 16. In 1887 Walter married Bertha Janet Reading and after a period at Middle street the couple settled into their family home at 61 Cottage Grove. It was quite a large house with nine main rooms so it seems likely that Walter's business, which in 1911 occupied premises at 53 & 55 Russell Street, off Guildhall Square, was providing a good income.
Walter and Bertha had seven sons, Norman, Alan, Austin, Dudley, Leslie Reading, Clifford and Harold. By 1911 the first four boys were deeply involved in the family business but their father was no longer around to oversee proceedings as he had died in 1902. We will probably never know why but the fifth son Leslie Reading declined to follow his siblings into the business and instead found himself an office job at the Portsmouth Corporation Tramway Service.
At the outbreak of war Leslie Reading Cronin was only 16 years of age and therefore too young to enlist. It's not known when he did so but it must have been late in the war as he was posted to the 17th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment which means that he never left England. His army experiences are currently unknown apart from the fact that he died 5 days after the Armistice, probably of influenza in Portsmouth where he is buried.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists Private LR Cronin, (56706), 17th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, died on 16/11/1918. Buried in Highland Road Cemetery, Portsmouth (Grave Ref: C.1.9.).
Leslie Cronin is remembered on the City of Portsmouth Passenger Transport Department WW1 Memorial and the Cenotaph (as Cronin RL) in Portsmouth. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
March 2014