Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The building trade was a common thread that ran through the Hoff family from 1846, when Ernest Harold's grandfather James Hoff arrived in Portsmouth, to the Great War.
James Hoff had been born at Weymouth in 1823 and it was presumably there that he met his future wife Catherine Lovell who was born in Weymouth the following year. The query over where they met is posed because James and Catherine were married in Portsmouth, in 1846, when neither seems to have had any previous connection to the town. Whatever the explanation, they had certainly settled in Portsmouth by the time of the 1861 census which found them living at 75 Bow Street, close to the recently constructed railway station at Commercial Road. With them were their three children, George, Frederick and Emma born in 1852, 1858 and 1859 respectively.
The occupation that James Hoff declared at the 1861 census was that of plasterer and ten years later, by which time the family were sharing a property at 50 Surrey Street, his son George did likewise. George though seems to have had a wider vision than his father as by 1881 he had developed to become a builder who was employing eight men and two boys. The census that year also tells us that in 1872 George Hoffs (sic) had married Ellen Mary Snelling and they had set up home at 18 Bradford Road in Southsea. There they had three children, Elizabeth (b. 1875), Clara (b. 1879) and George jnr. (b. 1881).
Over the next thirty years the family moved initially to 37 Bradford (1891 census) and then to 5 Fawcett Road (1901 and 1911 censuses). During this period they also added three more children, Alice (b. 1884), Florence (b. 1886) and lastly Ernest Harold Hoff in 1895. The 1911 census census reports that Ernest Harold had followed his father and grandfather into the family business and was working, presumably with his father, as a jobbing builder.
At the outbreak of the Great War Ernest Harold was 19 years old. He could have enlisted in the 14th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment when it was formed at Portsmouth in September 1914 but instead waited until the 15th Battalion began recruiting in April the following year. After training the Battalion landed in France in May 1916 as part of the 41st Division. It took part in the Battles of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres where Ernest Hoff died of wounds in October 1918, a month before the armistice.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists EH Hoff, Corporal (204940), 15th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, died on 04/10/1918, age 23. Buried at Hooge Crater Cemetery, (Grave Ref: XIX.J.6.). Son of George Hoff, of 5, Fawcett Rd., Southsea, Portsmouth; husband of Ellen Mary Hoff.
Ernest Hoff is remembered on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
February 2015