Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

At the time of George Stinton James's birth in late 1893 his family were, or had recently been, inmates at the Portsea Island Union Workhouse* on St. Mary's Road, Milton. The date they left is not currently known but they were certainly there at the time of the 1891 census which lists his mother Elizabeth Ann (b. 1850 in Hackney) and his siblings Charles (b. 1880 at Salisbury), Annie (b. 1882 at Portsmouth) and Frederick Thomas (b. 1885 at Tottenham).
The whereabouts of George's father in 1891 is not currently known nor indeed is his first name, but he doesn't seem to have been at the workhouse. This could mean that he had abandoned his family or simply left them to seek work elsewhere. Either way he must, presumably, have been back in 1893 for George's conception. He is missing again at the 1901 census but this time it was because he had died, according to Elizabeth's status as a widow. Surprisingly for a family so recently in the workhouse, Elizabeth, Frederick and George were living at 94 Napier Road, Southsea, a modest but comfortable house. Ten years later the three of them were housed at 23 Duke Street, on the north side of Lake Road, Landport.
At the outbreak of the Great War George Stinton James was 20 years old and he volunteered for service in Gosport in September 1914. He could have joined the 1st Portsmouth Battalion which was being established at the time but instead opted for the Northumberland Fusiliers though it's difficult to understand why he should have chosen them. He was drafted to the Western Front within a month of enlistment and there fought at the First Battle of Ypres and on the Somme in July 1916. He died of wounds, presumably received at the latter, in July 1916.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists George Stinton James, Private (26118), Northumberland Fusiliers, died on 02/07/1916, age 20 (sic). Buried at the Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L'Abbe, (Grave Ref: I.B.7.). Son of Mrs. E. A. James, of 68, Upper East St., Southsea, Portsmouth.
George James is commemorated on the Cenotaph in Guildhall Square. He is listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War', Section X, p118.
*For a history of the workhouse see Peter Higginbottom's site at
George's military record states he was born at Dover whereas the census says it was at Portsmouth. He does not seem to appear in the birth register for either place.
Tim Backhouse
February 2015