Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

If it was not for his name appearing on the World War I Memorial outside St. Jude's Church in Southsea then John Charles Dodsworth Tetley would not feature in these pages, despite the fact that he was born in Southsea. His association with Portsmouth was so slight and his time in the Borough so fleeting that the omission of his name from the Cenotaph is hardly surprising. Despite this, his link to Portsmouth remained tangible thanks to the residence of his grandparents John and Catherine Coppin who lived at Ower Lodge, Albany Road, Southsea and who were probably the agents behind his name appearing at St. Jude's.
John Tetley was actually born at his grandparents house in Albany Road on 11th April 1885. His parents were Frank and Mary Elizabeth Tetley (nee Coppin) who had been married at Montevideo, Argentina on the 17th September 1883. Their first child, Katherine Elizabeth was born in May 1884, probably in Argentina, but she may not have been a very healthy child as she died aged just four years. This might explain why when Mary Elizabeth was due to give birth to the couple's second child she returned to her parent's home where John was born on 11th April 1885. Mary and John probably returned to Argentina soon after the birth where, six years later a third child, Eric William was born.
Relatively little of John's life and career can be seen via online resources but he does appear in the 1901 census, taken whilst he was a boarder at Charterhouse School, Godalming and again in the 1911 census which records John with his mother and brother at Oatlands Park, Weybridge. At the time, the 25 year old John Tetley was described as a solicitor which may indicate he was influenced in his choice of career by his maternal grandfather who was also a solicitor and Registrar to the County Court in Ripon.
Shortly after the 1911 census was taken the engagement between John Tetley and Sybil Mary Elizabeth Edwards was announced. Sybil's home was Novington Manor in Lewes and the couple were married in the town in 1912. Over the next five years they had three sons, Howell, Gerald and Patrick.
On 24th July 1914, just days before the outbreak of the Great War, John Tetley left Southampton on a steam packet bound for Argentina. He seems to have gone alone so he was probably just visiting his parents. It's not known when he returned or when he joined the army but when he did so his chosen regiment was the Grenadier Guards with whom he served on the Western Front. He died on the 9th October 1917, the day of the Battle of Poelcapelle.
Further Information
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website lists Lieutenant John Charles Dodsworth Tetley, Grenadier Guards, date of death, 09/10/1917, aged 31. He is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial (Panel 9). Husband of Sybil Mary Elizabeth Tetley.
John Tetley's's name appears on the St. Jude's Church WW1 Memorial but not on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the National Roll of the Great War, Section X.
Tim Backhouse
August 2014