Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Traditionally Portsmouth had never had much of an aristocracy outside naval circles, which meant that the leading citizens in the town were largely drawn from the professional classes. One family to whom this applied as least as far back as the 18th century were the Hellyers, renowned as attorneys, and later solicitors. George Edgcombe Hellyer may well have joined their ranks had he not lost his life in the Great War.
The census of 1841 shows that the Hellyers, in the shape of William John (b. 1812 in Portsea), was already an attorney. He was living with his wife Mary (b. 1819) at Prince George's Street, in the heart of Portsea. Mary died in the early 1840s without leaving any children and William John went on to marry Sarah Ann Edgcombe in 1849. The couple had three children, twins Mary and Sarah in 1852 and Robert Edgcombe in 1856. By this time the family had moved to a prestigious address at 19 St. George's Square in Portsea, due in part no doubt to William's elevation to the role of Deputy Judge Advocate of the Fleet but also as a reflection of his growing status as a Borough Councillor from 1853. The 1861 census shows the family living at Glenden House, 21 St. George's Square but William John did not have long to enjoy it as he died later that year.
It would seem that Robert Edgcombe Hellyer was always destined to follow his father into the law as he was sent to school at St. John's College, Hurstpierpoint in Sussex and so it is no surprise that after leaving, he went on to become a solicitor. At the 1881 census Robert was living with his widowed mother Sarah at 9 Windsor Terrace in Southsea but the following year he married Annie Nicholson of St. John's Wood in London and together they moved to Dulverton House in Yarborough Road, Southsea. Their first child Francis was born in 1889 to be followed by George Edgcombe four years later.
Like his father, George Edgcombe was sent away to school, probably to prepare him for the bar, but in his case the chosen school was Woodcote House, Wallingford. Whilst he was away the family moved first to 35 Elm Grove and then out of the city to Farlington House, near Cosham.
At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 George Hellyer was 21 years old. He may have enlisted immediately as when he did so he joined the 10th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment whereas if it had been later he would have joined the 14th Battalion. The 10th were posted to Irelandand didn't return until May 1915 after which, on 7th July 1915, they sailed for Gallipoli, landing there on 6th August. George must have seen plenty of action but only survived there for two weeks before losing his life on 22nd August.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists Captain George Edgcombe Hellyer, 10th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, died on 22/08/1915. Commemorated on the Helles Memorial (Panel 125-134 or 223-226 228-229 & 328).
George Hellyer is remembered on the WW1 Memorial at St. Andrew's Church, Farlington but not on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
It is well known that there are hundreds of Portsmouth men who lost their lives in WW1 whose names do not appear on the Guildhall Cenotaph. There are many reasons for this but in the case of George Hellyer we are dealing with a man who was born in Portsmouth, was raised in Portsmouth, fought for the Hampshire Regiment and who came from one of the most recognised families in Portsmouth and yet his death in the line of duty has gone largely unrecognised. There are two possible contributory factors. Firstly, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, which usually includes whatever family information they have available, is quite silent on his background and secondly, his family lived in Farlington from at least 1911 and Farlington was not brought into the Borough, later City, of Portsmouth until 1932. If it could happen to George Hellyer it is hardly suprising that it happened to so many others. [See comments about how the names were collected on the Cenotaph page of the Memorials in Portsmouth website]
Tim Backhouse
May 2014