Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Born at Portsmouth in 1881, William Arthur spent his whole life prior to the Great War in the household of his parents William and Susan Edwards. It must have been a secure environment for the most part as his father spent over 40 years in the Metropolitan Police Force based in the Dockyard.
William Edwards snr. had been born at Durley, near Droxford, Hampshire in 1839, son of Agricultural Labourer Abraham Edwards and his wife Jane. In the 1850s William snr. left Durley to join the Police Force and in 1861 was stationed at HM Dockyard, Portsmouth. The 1871 census records him aboard the Metropolitan Police Ship 'Juno' operating in Portsmouth Harbour and in 1874 he returned to his home area for long enough to marry Susannah Bower who had been born at Soberton in 1837.
By 1881 the couple were living at 37 Nelson Road, Landport with their children Thomas (b. 1875), Ada Jane (b. 1877), Frances (b. 1879) and an as yet unnamed son who would soon become William Arthur Edwards. By 1891 the family had moved to 24 Frederick Street, Portsea and later that decade William snr. retired from the Police Force. The retirement seems to have caused some disruption to the household as in 1911 William snr., Susan and William jnr. were living as boarders at 45 Cressy Road, Buckland.
For the 15 years prior to the outbreak of the Great War William Arthur had been working as a corset cutter so he may have viewed the prospect of joining the army as a welcome change. We don't know exactly when he enlisted but when he did so he was posted to the Gloucestershire Regiment and landed in France in November 1915 as part of the 5th Division. In March 1916 the Division took over a section of the front line between St. Laurent Blangy and the Southern edge of Vimy Ridge, in front of Arras. It was an area of considerable activity marked by severeal important battles. In October 1916 the Division were moved to Festubert which was initially a quieter area until the start of the Battles of Arras. It seems probable that William Arthur was wounded on the battlefield and transported to hospital at Boulogne where he died in June 1917.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists William Arthur Edwards, Corporal (31935), 12th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, died, 05/06/1917, aged 36 years. Buried at the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, (Grave Ref: IV.B.46.). Son of William and Susan Edwards. Born at Portsmouth.
William Edwards is commemorated on the Cenotaph, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth. He is not listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X.
Tim Backhouse
January 2015