Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

There is much anecdotal evidence testifying to the closeness of the community in the poorer areas of Old Portsmouth. Whilst some families chose to move out of what was essentially slum housing as soon as possible others chose to remain and in the case of the Underdown family they remained for at least eighty years.
It seems probable that it was David Underdown's grandfather Henry who was recorded in the 1841 census living at 23 East Street with his wife Ann and daughter Elizabeth. If so, then he must have had a son in 1842 also known as Henry, though he does not appear in any census until 1881 when he was recorded living at 22 East Street. As both Henrys were merchant seamen it is not suprising that they would be at sea when some of the censuses were called but the younger Henry being missed at the 1851 census when he was just nine years old suggests an omission on behalf of the family or the enumerator.
Henry snr. had been born in Kent in 1807 whilst Ann was a Portsmouth child, born in 1809. They were married in the late 1830s. Before settling in East Street they stayed for a while on Crown Street, a short walk across the Camber Bridge but the move did not improve their living conditions as they found themselves sharing 23 East Street with up to four other family groups.
Henry jnr. first surfaced in the census for 1881 aged 39 with his wife Caroline, eight years his junior. They later declared they had been married in 1872 but there are currently no records to support this. In 1881 they were at 22 East Street with their children Henry, Thomas and Caroline, 8, 6 and 1 year in age respectively. Ten years later they were living at 'Back of 36 East Street' and four more children were listed in the census that year, John, Charles, David and Sophia, 7, 5, 2 and 1 year of age.
The only two members of the family to appear in the 1901 census were David and his sister Caroline with whom he was staying on the Isle of Wight. In 1909 David married Nellie Esther Webb and they probably set up home at 18 White Hart Road, close to the Camber. They had three children before the outbreak of the Great War, Nellie (b. 1910), Albert (b. 1911) and Hilda (b. 1914) and one later, David (b. 1916)
As a family man David could have avoided enlistment in the first two years of the war but it's not known if he did. Whenever he signed up it was the Royal Enniskilling Fusiliers that he joined. The 1st Battalion, of which he was a member served in Egypt and Gallipoli before landing in France where they took part in the Battle of the Somme, the Arras Offensive and the Third Battle of Ypres. David Underdown was killed on 14th July 1917.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list Private D Underdown (41362), 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died 14/07/1917. Buried at the Talana Farm Cemetery (Grave Ref: I.A.3.).
David Underdown is commemorated on the Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral WW1 Memorial Cross, the All Saints Church WW1 Memorial and the Cenotaph. He is not listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X.
The Underdown family do not seem to have been particularly diligent when it came to completing the census which may account for the gap in the records that would allow a direct connection to be made between the two Henrys, David's Father and Grandfather. However, given that there were so few Underdowns living in Portsmouth it seems credible that common addresses (22 and 23 East Street), common occupations (merchant seamen) and the common tendency to name the first born son after the father suggest this history is correct.
Tim Backhouse
October 2014