Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Although Robert Percy was born in Portsmouth he was from the first generation of his family to be so, his father, Robert AS Ewins, hailing from West Grinstead in Sussex where he was born in 1865 and his mother Ellen being born in Devonport in the same year as her husband.
It was not until the 1880s that Robert moved to Portsmouth, possibly in search of work, having formerly been a draper's assistant on High Street, Storrington. At the time he arrived in Portsmouth Ellen was living at 205 Fratton Road with her parents John and Frances Radford who were from Birkenhead and Gosport respectively.
Robert and Ellen were married at Portsmouth in 1887 and soon found a home at 26 Blackfriars Road. Their first born, Robert Percy, was born in 1889 to be followed in 1891 by Albert. By 1901 the family had moved to 24 Toronto Road in Buckland and had grown by the addition of three more children, Lillian, Evelyn and Arthur. Robert snr. was at the time working as a grocer and beer retailer.

In 1903 Robert Percy began a year's attendance at the Higher Grade School on Victoria Road North, leaving to become a Clerk.
At the 1911 census three of the children were recorded using their second names, Percy for Robert, Henry for Albert and Vera for Evelyn. There is no obvious reason why their parents should have done that. Robert snr. was listed as a Traveller for a Brewery business whilst Robert Jnr. was a clerk, probably at the same company. The family were then living at 60 Queen's Road.
Despite being 25 years old at the outbreak of the Great War Robert Percy did not enlist in the army, but in July 1915 he joined the Royal Engineers as a Sapper. With a call for an increase in the Infantry, he was transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers in December, 1916, and sent to France. He was soon in the firing line, taking part in the Spring of the next year in the British offensive which caused the enemy to retreat several miles to the east of Arras. On the 28th April, 1917, Pte. Ewins was reported missing. Though the circumstances of his end are not known with certainty, it is believed that he fell in an attack on the chemical works at Arras.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists Private Robert Percy Ewins, (47056), Northumberland Fusiliers, died on 28/04/1917. Remembered on the Arras Memorial (Bay 2 and 3).
Roberet Ewins is remembered on the Southern Grammar School WW1 Memorial and the Cenotaph (as 'Ewins P.) in Portsmouth. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
July 2014