Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The Thomas family were present in Portsmouth for much of the century preceding the Great War. The earliest records suggest that Frederick George's grandfather, Charles Thomas, who was born in Portsea in 1813, married Hannah Gauntlett, (born in 1818), in Gosport during 1838. The early censuses describe Charles as a sawyer.
Charles and Hannah had three children in Portsea, Hannah (b. 1842), Charles (b. 1844) and William (b. 1845) before moving to Manchester where two more were born - Sarah (b. 1850) and Ellen (b. 1851). A return to Portsmouth in time for the 1861 census saw the family at the Ship and Castle on Rudmore Road where Charles combined his trade as a sawyer with that as a beer retailer. There were a number of timber yards in the vicinity of Rudmore Road making the Ship and Castle an ideal base from which to practise his two skills. Interestingly the Ship and Castle is the last of the pubs in Rudmore to survive into the 21st century.
Whilst there Charles and Hannah had three more children, Charlotte (b. 1856), Frederick James (b. 1858) and Harriet (b. 1860). Some records suggest that Charles remained the landlord of the Ship and Castle until 1874 but the 1871 census lists him at the Royal Engineer's Arms on Somers Road with Hannah and five of their children. Charles died in 1875 and Hannah moved with her son Charles to 32 Fratton Grove, but by then Frederick James had already left the household and in 1885 he married Louisa Bonfield, who was born at Swanage in 1865.
Frederick James took up a trade in baking and was recorded living at 3 Renny Road, Fratton in the 1891 census. With him were Louisa and their first two children, Frederick George (b. 1888) and Alice (b. 1890). By 1901 the family were at 74 Amelia Road, Landport and two more children had come along - Alfred (b. 1892) and Gordon (b. 1898). A fifth child, Grace, arrived in 1904.
The 1911 census shows that Frederick James had set up his own bakery business and that Frederick George was working as his assistant. Later that year Frederick George married Elsie Welch. As a husband, possibly with a family, Frederick George did not enlist in the immediate aftermath of the declaration of war in August 1914. When he did so he was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment which suggests that he had joined after conscription was introduced in 1916 and that his posting was one of those made to replace numbers already lost in conflict. He fought with the regiment until September 1918 when he lost his life.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list Private Frederick George Thomas (12693), 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, died 04/09/1918, age 30. Commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial (Panel 6). Son of Frederick James and Louie (sic) Thomas, of 75, Elm Rd., Mile End, Portsmouth; husband of Elsie Thomas, of 19, Copythorn Rd., North End, Portsmouth.
Frederick Thomas is also commemorated on the Buckland United Reformed Church WW1 Memorial and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X.
Tim Backhouse
December 2014