Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

There are many reasons why a soldier's name might have been omitted from the Portsmouth Cenotaph, but it is unusual for a man born and raised in the town to be so ignored, especially as, in Robert Arthur's case, his father worked just a few hundred yards from the monument and can hardly have been unaware of the call for suitable names to be inscribed upon it.
Robert Arthur's father, Robert Thomas Gray, was born at Yarmouth in Norfolk in 1861, spent most of his early years at Brightlingsea, Essex and moved with his parents to Portsmouth around 1876. The 1881 census records the family living at 19 King's Terrace, Southsea where his mother Elizabeth ran a lodging house. The name of his father is currently unknown as he was a mariner and away at sea when the relevant censuses were called. Elizabeth not only ran the lodging house but looked after her five children, Robert Thomas, Hazell, Matilda, Albert and Florence. Robert Thomas was then working as a letter sorter at the central sorting office, on a career path that he would pursue for the next 30 years or more.
In 1886 Robert Thomas left home to marry his wife Alice, though no entry in the marriage register has yet been found to support this. The couple set up home at 120 Lawrence Road, Southsea (1891 census) and later moved to 9 Queen's Road, Buckland (1901 census) and 13 Monmouth Road, North End (1911 census). Along the way they had 13 children though only 8 survived infancy. They were Robert Arthur (b. 1887), Mildred (b. 1888), Walter (b. 1889), William (b. 1893), Albert (b. 1894), Winifred (b. 1896), Basil (b. 1903) and Eva (b. 1905).
At the outbreak of the Great War Robert Arthur was 27 years old and probably working in London as he enlisted at Leyton in the 17th Battalion, London Regiment (Poplar and Stepney Rifles) later attached to the Rifle Brigade. His unit were deployed to France in November 1914 where Robert Arthur fought for three years before being killed in action in August 1917.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists Robert Arthur Gray, Rifleman (574873), 17th Battalion, London Regiment, died 16/08/1917, aged 32 years. Commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, (Panels 52 to 54.). Son of Robert Thomas and Alice Gray; husband of Alice Gray, of 28, Monmouth Rd., North End, Portsmouth.
Robert Gray is not commemorated on the Cenotaph, Guildhall Square, nor on any other memorial in Portsmouth. Neither is he listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X.
Tim Backhouse
January 2015