Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

On the day the 1911 Census was taken Alfred Wearn was serving aboard HMS Roxburgh, then anchored in Portsmouth Harbour. His father William, himself a former sailor with the Royal Navy, was at the same time living with his second wife, Clara at 3 Mayhall Road, Copnor. William was aged 68 years and Clara 45. They stated that they had been married for 24 years.
Twenty years earlier William had been living at 69 Guildford Road but this time his wife was recorded as Lilly, aged 39 years. The couple had three children, Maggie (b. 1879), Lilly (b. 1889) and William (b. 1890). In 1901, the census reveals that Lilly was no longer in the household but Clara was. The children Maggie, Lilly and William were still at home as was Alfred Ernest who had been born in 1893. They were living at 73 Ernest Road.
Alfred Ernest would probably have left school at 15 years of age and we know that by 1911, when he was 18, he was in the Royal Navy. There is a good possibility that for part of the time between 1908 and 1911 he worked for the Portsea Island Gas Light Company (see below). He served with the navy until December 1917, when he lost his life aboard HMS Torrent, an R-class destroyer, when she struck a mine and sank in the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission list Ordinary Seaman Alfred Ernest Wearn, RN, (J/67872), died 23/12/1917, serving aboard HMS Torrent. Remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial (Panel 25).
Alfred Wearn may also be remembered on the Portsea Island Gas Light Company WW1 memorial in Guildhall Square as seems likely given that the memorial lists him as 'E. Wearn' and that there is nobody with that name on the CWGC database. His correct initials are shown on the Cenotaph. His name does not appear in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
The research into the Wearn family has shown some inconsistencies. There are for instance no records which seem to show William's marriage to either Lilly or Clara. The former could have taken place overseas given William's presence in the navy, but the latter should have been in the UK. In any case, William and Clara declared that they had been married for 24 years in 1911, which would have overlapped with the period William was supposed to have been married to Lilly.
Tim Backhouse
February 2014