Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

As in so many other cases it was the the Royal Navy Dockyard and it's prospects of work that first drew the Pannell family to Portsmouth. Alfred John's father Thomas moved his family from Frodsham near Chester to Portsmouth in the 1890s possibly because he already had experience of working on trams as within only a few years he was working as a Foreman for the Navy Tramways in the Dockyard.
It's not certain what took Thomas to Frodsham in the first place as he was born not far from Portsmouth, at Buriton in 1854 where his father Daniel was an agricultural labourer. Thomas was at home with his parents for the 1871 census but is missing from the next two. In the meantime he married Martha who was born at Tavistock in 1859, though there seems to be no record of it in the marriage register. The couple's only child was Alfred John Pannell who was born at Swindon in 1879.
The 1891 census lists Martha and Alfred at Frodsham where they seem to have been running a lodging house. This activity continued after the family moved to Portsmouth as in 1901 they were living at 18 Hay Street where, apart from Thomas, Martha and Alfred there lived a servant Maria Parish and four lodgers. Alfred John must have got on very well with the servant Maria as he married her in 1903 and moved with her to 23 Liverpool Road where they had two children, George (b. 1907) and John (b. 1909).
At the 1911 census Alfred was working as a Stationary Engine Driver which would have meant he was working on the trams, like his father, though it may not have been in the Dockyard. Alfred may not have enlisted as soon as the Great War broke out as he was a father to two young boys, but when he did so he joined the Royal Engineers, a choice influenced perhaps by his civilian work. He was posted to the 509th Field Company which took part in many significant battles on the Western Front. Alfred survived them all until the last year of the war when he lost his life in March 1918.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission list Sapper Alfred John Pannell (222960), Royal Engineers, died 21/03/1918, aged 38. Commemorated at the Arras Memorial, (Bay 1). Son of Thomas and Martha Pannell; husband of Maria Parmell, of 14, Gunwharf Rd., Portsmouth.
Alfred Pannell is also remembered on the Anglican Cathedral WW1 Memorial Cross and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War', Section X.
Tim Backhouse
November 2014
Thanks to Cynthia Sherwood for additional research