Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Walter George Pearce was born to Walter George and Margaret Grace Pearce in 1892. At the time the family was probably living at 31 Monmouth Road, North End. Walter was the second child of the family, the eldest, Margaret, was 2 years old when he was born. Following him were sons Arthur and Alfred and daughters Nellie and Elizabeth.
Walter, the father, was a commercial traveller in the book and stationery trade and was born in Portsmouth in 1862. The book trade clearly ran through the family as his father Edward Pearce (b. 1829) had also been a 'Book Agent'. Although he must have visited Portsmouth on a frequent basis Edward was not a native of Portsea so the extent of the Pearce family's connection to Portsmouth was probably no more than 3 generations.
In 1904, Walter George the younger was sent to the Secondary School at the northern end of Victoria Road North, a spot now occupied by Priory School. He seems to have had an unremarkable career there and left in 1907. What little evidence we have of his life in the years after school suggests that he inherited at least some of the family interest in books as he became a cashier and clerk which he converted into the post of writer in the Naval Store Department of H.M. Dockyard, Portsmouth. At the time the family was living at 25 Gladys Avenue, North End.

In June, 1916, he enlisted voluntarily in the 1st Battalion, the Hampshire Regiment. After a short period of home training he crossed to France in the October following. His wearing of the cross guns for Lewis gunnery showed that he rapidly acquired skill in the management of these weapons. Following a period in the trenches he was for a time in hospital, and returned to the firing line only a few days before his death.
April, 1917, saw the great and successful attempt of the British to drive back the enemy in front of Arras, and in this effort the Hampshires played a noteworthy part. On the 12th of the month the Battalion made a most successful attack and D Company were set to hold some front line trenches in which Private Pearce and two comrades with their Lewis gun occupied a fire-bay. The position was persistently bombarded by the enemy and eventually a shell bursting near them killed all three. Private Pearce was hit near the temple, and death must have followed immediately. That same night he and his two companions were buried side by side near the support trench. The Company Officer and Q.M. Sergeant both speak well of him, the latter remarking that "he was a fine soldier," and that "his death was much regretted by all his comrades in our company."
Further Information
The photograph above is taken from a memorial booklet published by Southern Grammar School from which extracts also appear above.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website lists Private WG Pearce (25797), 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, date of death, 12/04/1917, aged 25. He is buried at Bailleul Road East Cemetery, St. Laurent-Blangy, Pas de Calais
Walter Pearce's name has survived on the Southern Grammar School WW1 Memorial and on the Cenotaph.