Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

At the north-east end of Penny Street in Old Portsmouth, around the junction with Barrack Street, there was a community of people whose major sources of employment were with the breweries Pike Spicer and Garretts (later Brickwoods). The families in that community must have relied on each other on many occasions, but none more so than during the Great War when several lost sons and husbands. Amongst them were Henry and Ellen Clay at 11 Barrack Street who lost their son Henry, Henrietta Powell of 1a Penny Street whose husband George was killed in action and Frederick and Ellen Pickets who mourned their dead son William Henry.
Nothing is known of Frederick H. Pickets' life before 1880 when he married Ellen, daughter of John and Charlotte Bunce, at Portsmouth, except that he was born at Edware, Middlesex in 1858. He did not appear in the censuses for 1861 or 1871 and even after his marriage was not present for those in 1881 and 1891. His presence at other times though is not in doubt as Ellen gave birth to a number of children, the first being Frederick Thomas in 1881 whilst Ellen was living in her mother's household at 5 Sterling Street.
By 1891 the couple were sharing a house with one other family at 11 South Street by which time they had three more children, George John (b. 1888), Ellen Mabel (b. 1889) and William Henry (b. 1891). Frederick finally appears in the 1901 census when the family were living in their own home at 11 Penny Street with four more children, Annie Louisa (b. 1895), Lucy Eliza (b. 1897), Albert Victor (b. 1899) and Caroline Gertrude (b. 1901). The 1911 census records the family living at 13 Barrack Street with yet two more children, Ernest Walter (b. 1905) and Kathleen Phyllis (b. 1908). By this time Ellen was 49 years old and probably exhausted by the delivery of ten children.
In the years that Frederick was missing from the records it's quite likely that he was a mariner and away at sea when the censuses were called, but once he had retired from the sea there wasn't much work he could do ashore except became a labourer. He was fortunate though in that the two major breweries were on his doorstep allowing him to work for one of them initially as a labourer and later as a carter. He may well have been instrumental in getting a job as a beer bottler for his son William Henry.
When the Great War broke out in 1914 William Henry was 23 years old, but he may not have enlisted immediately. Whenever he did sign up he was posted to the 8th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers which landed in France in May 1915 as part of the 12th (Eastern) Division. His unit must have taken part in many important actions but none of them were ongoing when William Pickets lost his life on 1st March 1917.
The Royal Fusiliers War Diaries which are kept at the National Archives in Kew contains a note which may explain the circumstances of his death. In the entries leading to 27/28 February 1917, the author, Captain Dennis Carlton Royle MC 4th Btn on behalf of 8th Btn CO (who in turn was killed on 21 Aug 1918), reports that "Formed working parties for the Royal Engineers... Two other ranks killed and Three wounded". As there are no other reports of deaths or injuries at that time, Pickets must have been one of those wounded who then died the following day.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website lists Private W Pickets (21063), 8th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, date of death, 01/03/1917. He is buried at Avesnes-Le-Comte Communal Cemetery Extension, Grave Ref I.C.1.
William Pickets is remembered on the Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral WW1 Memorial and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War', Section X.
The family name of Pickets was often spelled with two t's but this doesn't explain Frederick's absence from four consecutive census records.
Tim Backhouse
October 2014
With thanks to Cynthia Sherwood for additional research.