Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

During the Great War, having the surname German must have provoked some interesting reactions though the name itself was not rare in the UK. In the census of 1841, there were 18 persons with that name in Portsmouth. Two of them were the great-grandparents of Hugh Bernard, the labourer Thomas German (b. 1785) and his wife Elizabeth (b. 1793) of East Street, Landport. Another was their son Alexander, Hugh Bernard's grandfather (b. 1826) who was recorded as being a painter's apprentice.
Later in the 1840s Alexander joined the Royal Navy and in 1850 he married Caroline Beavis (b. 1830 in Portsmouth). The couple lived at 31 East which may have been Alexander's parent's home. At the census of 1861 they were still at the same address and though Alexander was at sea Caroline is recorded living there with their sons Alexander George (b. 1853), Frederick (b. 1857) and Henry (b. 1859). By 1871 Alexander had left the navy and taken up the painting trade again. The family were still at East Street and had been joined by two daughters, Eliza (b. 1863) and Emma (b. 1867).
Alexander George made astonishing progress in the building trade as by 1881 he had his own plumbing business and was employing five men. He had married Ellen Jane Burwood (b. 1855 in Sussex) in 1878 and the two had become upwardly mobile in the housing field by occupying 12 Castle Road where in 1879 they had their first child, Nellie, who was followed by a son, originally listed as Bernard H, but subsequently known as Hugh Bernard. The census of 1891 saw a further leap up the social ladder when they were living at 'Clovelly' on Yarborough Road. Alexander George was listed as a Builder and Estate Agent. With them were four more daughters, Sybil, Eva, Mildred and Sue, aged 9, 7, 5 and 3 respectively. They also had two servants living in the household.
In the mid 1890s Hugh Bernard began attendance at Portsmouth Grammar School, where he performed well, and went on to study medicine at Guy's College, London where he graduated in 1904. He then joined the Royal Naval Medical Service, serving as a surgeon on HMS Orontes. The 1911 census shows Hugh Bernard in Brixton, living with his wife Constance and five year old daughter Aileen in the household of his father-in-law, John Brett.
In 1912 he left the navy and went into practice in Waltham Abbey. In 1916 he obtained a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Captain but acted as a Major. He was awarded the MC in 1917 for bravery in organising the removal of 38 stretcher cases whilst his dressing station was being shelled. He was killed in September 1918 when he was helping to set up an advanced dressing station that came under heavy shelling.
Further Information
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website lists Major HB German, Royal Army Medical Corps, 17th Field Ambulance, Awarded the Military Cross, date of death, 18/09/1918, aged 38, buried at Trefcon British Cemetery, Caulaincourt (Grave ref: B.55.). Son of Mrs. German, of Southsea, Portsmouth, and the late Mr. A. G. German; husband of Constance Roberts German, of 96, Upper Grosvenor Rd., Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
Hugh German is commemorated on the St. Jude's Church WW1 Memorial and on the Portsmouth Grammar School WW1 Memorial but not on the Cenotaph. Neither is he listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Reasearch Notes
Records relating to the marriages of Alexander and Hugh Bernard are a little confusing. It seems probable that Alexander married Caroline Beavis, but it could just possibly have been Caroline Pollard. Hugh Bernard's marriage to Constance is not really in doubt but the marriage register as recorded by Find My Past gives the wife's name as Sarah Killengrey.
Tim Backhouse
August 2014