Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

At the first national census in 1841, the Whettem family are the only ones with that surname, not just in Portsmouth, but in the whole of Britain. At that time the family consisted of James Main's great grand-parents, John and Ann Whettem together with their four children, James, William, Martha and Mary and they were living at Gloucester Street, Portsea.
John and Ann's son James Read Whettem (b. 1823) was shortly to become a shipwright and in 1845 to marry Henrietta Diana Eades (b. 1825), the daughter of a fellow shipwright Thomas and his wife Sophia Eades. James and Henrietta set up home at 1 Unicorn Street, a few doors away from Thomas and Sophia. The census of 1851 showed that they had begun their own family in having two daughters, Henrietta (b. 1847) and Kate (b. 1849).
James must have been good at his job as by his early thirties he had been appointed Foreman Shipwright at the Sheerness Dockyard. Wages in this position were good as his retention of a servant and nurse to his growing family indicates. The 1861 census shows the family at Sheerness and consisting of James and Henrietta with their children, Henrietta and Kate, plus Martha (b. 1852), John (b. 1854), Sarah (b. 1857), Stephen (b. 1859) and Minnie (b. 1861). By 1871 James had been transferred back to Portsmouth Dockyard and his family were then living at 32 St. John's Street, Portsea. Three more children had been born in the meantime, James (b. 1864), Herbert (b. 1867) and Frank (b. 1870).
That same census shows that James's son John, then aged 17 had begun his working life as an apprentice clerk and in 1878 he married Mary Main (b. 1850), the daughter of John and Mary Main of 34 Broad Street, Old Portsmouth. The couple seem to have initially taken lodgings at 45 St. Thomas's Street before moving into their own house along the road at no. 77 before moving again, to no. 82. Along the way they built their own family with children, Minnie (b. 1880), Arthur (b. 1881), James Main (b. 1882) and Henrietta (b. 1890).
By the 1900s John Whettem had exchanged his job as a solicitor's clerk for that of a traveller in the brewing trade whilst James Main left school to start an ironmonger's apprenticeship and by 1911 becoming an ironmonger in Croydon where he was living as a boarder. At the start of the Great War he was 33 years old and volunteered for the London Regiment in September 1914. His unit were probably amongst those posted to Ireland after the rebellion there before being sent first to France and then to Egypt. He lost his life in the Middle East during December 1917.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list Rifleman James Main Whettem (552199), 2nd/16th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen's Westminster Rifles, died 08/12/1917, aged 36. Buried at the Jerusalem War Cemetery (Grave Ref: U.104.). Son of John and Mary Whettem, of 82, St. Thomas St., Portsmouth.
James Whettem is commemorated on the Anglican Cathedral WW1 Memorial Cross, the Cenotaph and probably the WW1 Memorial in St. Peter's Church (listed as James W. Whettem). He is not listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X.
Tim Backhouse
October 2014