Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Although he was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, Edward James spent most of his life prior to the Great War in Portsmouth. His father Henry was also born in Mansfield and similarly spent much of his life in Portsmouth.
The Ducker family's connection to Portsmouth began in the same way as so many others - that is by courtesy of the armed forces. In Henry Ducker's case he left his native Mansfield, where he had been born in 1854, to join the Royal Artillery as a gunner sometime in the 1870s. Nothing is currently known of his early career in the army but at the 1881 census he was serving on No Man's Land Fort in the middle of Spithead which had been completed just a few years earlier. It must have been an odd posting given that Britain was at peace but it would have had it's lighter moments when shore leave was granted.
Shore Leave would have been taken in Portsmouth and it was probably during one of those visits that Henry met Christina Agnes Mitchell, the nineteen year old daughter of Robert and Jane Mitchell of Hewlons Court, Portsea. Henry and Christina were married in 1881 and shortly afterwards Henry left the army to set up a home with Christina, initially in Portsmouth where their first child Thomas was born in 1883, but a year later they moved to his home town of Mansfield. There four more children were born, John, Joseph, Jean and Edward James, in 1884, 1886, 1888 and 1891 respectively.
By the time the 1901 census was called, the Ducker family were back in Portsmouth at 4 Collin's Court which was near Queen Street, Portsea. They must have moved back south around 1893 as their two youngest sons, Robert and Charles, were born at Portsmouth in 1895 and 1897. The motive for coming back to Portsmouth was probably not because of Henry's job as he had been a general labourer since leaving the army so it's likely to have been under Christina's influence.
The 1911 census recorded that the family had moved to larger premises at 2 Brighton Street, Landport and that Edward James was working as a newsboy. It is unclear whether Edward James joined the army before or after the outbreak of the Great War as the CWGC record places him in the "1st/4th" Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment which spent the entire war in the East. The Pompey Pals website on the other hand includes him amongst those men who joined the 14th and 15th Regiment in 1914 and 1915. It seems more likely that he was a member of the 14th Battalion which landed at Le Havre in March 1916. The Battalion took part in the Battles of the Somme during which Edward James was killed.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list EJ Ducker, Private (12747), 1st/4th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, died 01/09/1916. Buried at Puchevillers British Cemetery (Grave Ref: III.F.42.). Brother of Mrs. A. J. E. Clements, of 1022, New Rd., Portsmouth.
Edward Ducker is commemorated on the Cenotaph, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth. He is not listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X.
There are other errors in the CWGC record besides the apparent mistake in the Battalion. Edward's sister lived at 102A New Road and not 1022. She was the wife of Richard Clements, a greengrocer. Also, her initials may be incorrect as Edward only had one sister and her name was Jean (1901 census).
Tim Backhouse
January 2015