Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Little did Alfred Jerome know that when he boarded SS Ausonia on 23rd April 1914 bound for Quebec he would be returning to Europe a few months later to fight in the Great War. We can easily trace Alfred to that embarkation point in Southampton thanks to his natural decision to retain his birth name unlike his father who changed his name often enough to seem like he was avoiding researchers. The censuses record his first name as William Francis or Francis or Frank and his surname as Jerome or Jerram.
William F. Jerome first appears in the 1861 census as the seven year old son of Henry and Helen Jerram (sic). Henry had been born at Portsmouth in 1824 whilst Helen came from Gravesend where she had been born in 1820. In 1861 they were living at 40 Green Row and besides William they had three other children, Henry jnr. (b. 1850), Harriett (b. 1852) and Helen jnr. (b. 1860).
Sometime in the 1860s William left home and moved in with his uncle Joseph and aunt Harriett who were living at 7 Marmion Road, Southsea. The 1871 census records the first of his name changes as he had then decided he wanted to be called Frank. He retained this variation on his name for his marriage to Mary Ann Hall in late 1877 but by the time the 1881 census came around he had moved on and become Francis Jerome. He and Mary Ann were listed as living at 21 Brompton Road (1881 Census), 8 Gladstone Street (1891 Census) and 28 Centaur St, Buckland (1901 and 1911 Censuses). During this time Francis reverted to William whilst he and Mary Ann produced nine children, the fourth of which was Alfred Jerome.
The 1911 Census described Alfred as a fruiterer and greengrocer, an occupation he didn't mind leaving behind as he sought new opportunities in Canada in 1914. The Great War began just three months after he left Britain and we can only imagine the consternation this brought him. It's not known how long it took Alfred to make the decision to join the army but as the CWGC record suggests that he joined the 4th Canadian Division it may not have been until April 1916 when it was formed in England. The Canadians fought in many of the major battles on the Western Front including the Second Battle of Arras when Alfred Jerome probably lost his life.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists Alfred Jerome, Private (171912), 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, died on 28/08/1918, age 28. Buried at the Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery, Haucourt, (Grave Ref: VII.C.12.). Son of Mr. and Mrs. Jerome, of 28, Centaur St., Mile End, Portsmouth, England.
Alfred Jerome is commemorated on the Cenotaph in Guildhall Square. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War', Section X.
Tim Backhouse
February 2015