Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

For the whole of his life William Sparrow was surrounded by the aura of the Royal Marines, whether it be from his father or his maternal grandfather, but when it came to making a choice for his own military career he opted for the army.
The Marine ethos hadn't always surrounded the family which in 1871 was centred in St. Pancras where William Gordon's grandfather William (b. 1830) was a Railway Porter living with his wife Eliza (b. 1825) and son William George (b. 1867). The family have not been traced in the 1881 census and by the time they re-emerged in 1891 William George had left home and was settled in barracks at Fort Blockhouse, Gosport.
The following year, 1892, William George married Ellen Mildred Morgan (b. 1872) and the year after that, 1893, a son William Gordon Morgan Sparrow was born. He was followed in 1897 by a daughter Hilda Ellen. The family probably followed William George with each overseas posting as Hilda had been born in British Columbia, Canada. The earliest evidence for a settled home comes from 1901 when they were living at 2 Bristol Road, Southsea. William George was still a marine and had by then been promoted to Barrack Officer.

1911 saw the family upgrading their residence, on the back no doubt of William George's promotion to Quartermaster Lieutenant, Royal Marine Artillery. The new house was at 13 Craneswater Avenue, Southsea - a rather smart address. Living in the household with them were Ellen Mildred's father, Stephen Morgan (b. 1844), sister Alice (b. 1875) and niece Mildred (b. 1899). William George and Stephen must have had lots to talk about as the latter had also been a Marine, though in his case, the RMLI.
At the outbreak of the Great War William Gordon was 21 years old. The previous three years had seen him graduate from Army school through Sandhurst to appointment with the Northamptonshire Regiment in September 1912. In March the following year he embarked to join the 2nd Battalion at Malta and was promoted to Lieutenant in October 1913. In March 1915 he was wounded at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and in November that year promoted to Captain followed by a transfer to the King's Africa Rifles. He was killed in West Africa in July 1917.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission list Captain William Gordon Morgan Sparrow, Northamptonshire Regiment att. 1st King's African Rifles, died 08/07/1917, aged 24. Buried in Iringa Cemetery, Tanzania (Grave Ref: II.A.5.). Only son of Lt. Col. W. G. Sparrow, O.B.E. (Royal Marines) and Mrs. W. G. Sparrow, of 13, Craneswater Avenue, Southsea, England.
William Sparrow is also remembered on a Family Gravestone in Highland Road Cemetery, the Portsmouth Grammar School WW1 Memorial, the WW1 Cross at St. Judes Church (as 'Sparrow WP') and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
March 2014