Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The adjustment to civilian life after serving as a Petty Officer in the Senior Service can often be problematic. To find yourself working as a labourer, as did William Potter, may have compounded the issue. The Great War may have offered him a welcome second chance.
It is known that William Potter was born in Devon in 1863 but the next 30 years of his life have proved too difficult to track down, partly because he has a fairly common name but also because he spent much of that time at sea and away from the attentions of the census enumerators.
The earliest definite sighting of William Potter was in the 1901 census when he was living with his wife Alice (b. 1863), whom he had married in 1894, at 104 Toronto Road, Buckland. This must have been well after he retired from the navy as he was described as a Skilled Labourer employed at HM Dockyard. Living in the house with William and Alice were three children from Alice's former marriage to Thomas Batchelor Williams who had died in 1893. They were James, Agnes and Evelyn Williams. Also present were William and Alice's first two children, Olive (b. 1896) and William Thomas (b. 1900).
By the time of the 1911 census, the family were still at Toronto Road but the three offspring ffrom Alice's first marriage had left the house whilst two more with William had been born - Reginald Edwin (b. 1902) and Muriel Winifred (b. 1903). This census also recorded the fact that William had left the Dockyard and joined the Portsmouth Corporation Tramway service. His job description was as a labourer but this was probably a skilled job as he was in the gang laying and maintaining the Permanent Way which was the name for the track and it's foundations.
At the outbreak of war William Potter was 51 years old which was probably too old for active service but he was nevertheless recalled to serve at HMS Victory which may have meant he became part of the staff at the Training Centre. In 1917 he must have fallen ill or suffered an accident as he died in Portsmouth in July that year. He was buried in Kingston Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists Petty Officer 1st Class W. Potter, Royal Navy, (104190), HMS Victory, died on 04/07/1917. Buried in Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth.
William Potter is remembered on the City of Portsmouth Passenger Transport Department WW1 Memorial and the Cenotaph in Portsmouth. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
March 2014