Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The census records present such a useful source of information that it's easy to forget they are fallible and should be cross-checked wherever possible. Research into Robert Charles Long is a case in point, beginning with his name. The CWGC and 1911 census agree that his first name was Charles, but the 1901 census lists him as Robert whilst the Baptismal records refer to him as Robert Charles. Whichever version is chosen there is no doubt that he was born at Portsmouth in 1894.
The 1911 census also tell us that he was living at 40 Baker Street, Buckland with his mother Ada Maria and brothers Joseph, William, Alfred and Frederick who were born in 1897, 1900, 1901 and 1903 respectively. His father was not present at the time but when we turn to the 1901 census we find that he was named Joseph and that he was a stoker in the Royal Navy, which probably explains his absence ten years later.
The marriage register tells us that Joseph married Ada Maria Watson in the second half of 1892. Ada was the daughter of David and Jane Watson and was born at Portsmouth in 1869. The records then throw up another conundrum, at least that is the way it appears to modern eyes. Joseph gave his age in the 1901 census as 25 which closely agrees with the birth register which gives a birth date of 1877 (2nd quarter). Both of these place Joseph's age at the time he married Ada Maria as 15 years. This, to say the least, is uncommonly young, but not illegal. Until 1929 anyone under the age of 21 could get married if they had parental permission.
In Joseph's case those parents were probably Joseph and Emma Long but the documentary evidence is inconclusive mainly because Joseph snr. did not appear in a census after the marriage to Emma. This in turn makes it likely that he was serving in the Royal Navy, an example that would be followed by his son Joseph jnr. but not his grandson Robert Charles.
When the Great War began on 4th August 1914 Robert Charles was 19 years of age and so would have been eligible to enlist in the army but he did not do so. Instead he waited until after April 1915 when the 2nd Portsmouth Battalion (later 15th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment) was being formed. In October 1915 the battalion moved to Aldershot and in February 1916 to Marlborough Lines eventually landing in France in early May. Almost immediately they took part in the Battles of the Somme 1916 during which Charles was wounded. He was transferred to hospital in England but died in July 1916 and was buried in Portsmouth. A month later his brother Joseph David was buried alongside him.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list Charles Long, Private (20267), 15th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, died 15/07/1916. Buried in Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth (Grave Ref: Scadden's.4.35.). Son of Mrs. A. M. Long, of 40, Baker St., Mile End, Landport, Portsmouth.
Robert Charles Long is also remembered on the Cenotaph in Guildhall Square (as Long C). He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War' Section X.
Tim Backhouse
March 2015