Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

William Shea's father, also named William was born in Scotland in 1841. He probably came to Portsmouth around 1870 as he married a Gosport girl, Eliza Philp in 1874. William snr. was in the Civil Service and may have been required to work overseas from time to time as neither he nor Eliza appear in the census of 1881.
For the census of 1891 they were back in Portsmouth where they were living in a shared house at 63 Adames Road, off St. Mary's Road. They were listed as having five children, James, Annie, William Francis, Albert and Mark, none of whom were born in Portsmouth. William snr. would not see another census as he died in 1899, and by the time the next one came round in 1901 Eliza had moved the family to 35 Silverlock Street, off Stamshaw Lane, where she declared her status as Housekeeper to the 61 year old widower Thomas Jessy, but continued to claim she was married.
Eliza's two elder children had left home but William Francis and Mark were still with her as were two more children Minnie and Jessy who were 9 and 4 years old respectively. The spelling of the youngest child's name suggests some association with Thomas Jessy despite having been born two years before William Shea snr, had died.
By 1901 William Francis had found a job as a labourer at the gas works and in 1907 had married Emma Richardson. They set up a family home at 166 Lake Road and by 1911 had two children, Emma and William. By then William Francis had improved his position at the gas works by becoming the storekeeper.
William probably didn't volunteer at the outbreak of the Great War as there was no requirement for a 34 year old married man with a family to do so. However when conscription was introduced he would not have been given exemption and so joined the Dorsetshire Regiment. Details of his service are unknown apart from his death in December 1917, and though he was buried at Wimereux he may well have been injured elsewhere as Wimereux was a hospital centre.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists Private William Francis Shea, (20080), 6th Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment, died on 07/12/1917, aged 38 years. He is buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery, Grave Ref. VIII.A.15. Son of William and Eliza Shea, of Portsmouth; husband of Emma Beatrice Shea, of 44, Dartmouth Rd., Copnor, Portsmouth.
William Shea is remembered on the Portsea Island Gas Light Company WW1 memorial in Guildhall Square, and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the National Roll.
Tim Backhouse
February 2014