Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The average age of the casualty in the Great War was in the early 20s which makes Alfred Percival Stilwell one of the older ones to die at 36 years.
Alfred was born at Portsmouth in 1881, the son of Benjamin Stilwell (b. 1854), a native of Westbourne in Sussex. Benjamin had married Mary Jane Noble (b. 1855) of Bishopstoke at Andover in 1880. He must have already been in the navy at the time of the marriage as the 1881 census records him as an Engine Room Artificer at HMS Vernon. Alfred Percival was born shortly after, to be followed by his sister Laura (b. 1883) and his brother Ernest (b. 1886). All three were born in Portsmouth.
Benjamin was promoted to Chief ERA, Assistant to the Admiralty Engineer overseer and posted to Elswick, Newcastle on Tyne where he was living with his family at the 1891 census. They were all back in Portsmouth by at least 1895 as in that year Alfred Percival began attendance at the Higher Grade School on Victoria Road North though he stayed only one year. At some point he also attended St. Jude's school though it's not known exactly when he did so. The family home was at 126 Jessie Road.
After leaving school he served his apprenticeship as a pupil teacher at Bramble Road School, and obtained the Teacher's Certificate in the summer of 1903 after two years' residence at St. John's Training College, Battersea. He held appointments in turn in the Milton, Penhale Road, and New Road Elementary Schools.

The 1911 census shows Alfred Percival still living with his parents at 10 Bristol Road. He was described as an Assistant Schoolmaster whilst his father Benjamin had left the navy and was working for the Government Department of Works where he was a Marine Engineer (Dredging).
Alfred Percival joined the Army Ordnance Corps in 1915 and soon after enlistment was sent to Woolwich Barracks where he worked through a special course of instruction in the filling of bombs and, passing the final test satisfactorily. He went out to France as a Lance-Corporal early in 1916. In the battle area he worked near the firing line, chiefly with the ammunition. He was killed on the night of 2nd July, 1917, during a raid on the British Camp, by a bomb dropped from enemy aircraft, and was buried in the cemetery at Aire, near St. Omer.
Several letters were written by Officers and men with whom he served, and each one spoke of him as a man of high character and as a most conscientious and industrious soldier. A point was made in these letters of his great willingness to help his fellow men both at work and during leisure hours.
The photograph above was taken from a WW1 memorial booklet published by Southern Grammar School. Extracts also appear above.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists Lance Corporal Alfred Percival Stilwell (O/3167), Royal Army Ordnance Corps, died on 02/07/1917, age 36. Buried at Aire Communal Cemetery (Grave Ref: I.F.3.). Son of Benjamin and Mary Stilwell, of Portsmouth.
Alfred Stilwell is remembered on the Southern Grammar School WW1 Memorial, the St. Jude's Church WW1 Cross, the RAOC Great War Memorial (formerly in St. Barbara's Church, Hilsea, now in St. Barbara's Church, Deepcut) and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
June 2014