Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War


It is not uncommon to find two members of the same family who became casualties in the Great War but it is harder to identify two who attended the same school at the same time, went through training and achieved the same rank together, died within a few days of each other and are remembered on the same memorial (see right). We have no way of knowing whether they were friends but such was the fate of Clarence Wilkinson and Charles White.
Clarence Wilfred has another odd claim to fame which is that he appears on the 1891 census, probably within a day or so of having been born, and is represented by a dash - his parents not having yet thought of a name for him.
His parents were Robert and Susan Wilkinson, born at Hull, Yorkshire and Portsmouth respectively in 1849 and 1852. They were probably married in 1870 but records are confusing. It is certain however that they had seven children before 1891 when Clarence Wilfred was born. At the census that year the family was listed as living at 7 Wimpole Street, between Landport and Fratton, but something happened to the family unit over the next ten years as by 1901 Robert was living on his own at 5 Coish's Lane, Susan seems to have diappeared and Clarence Wilfred and his new younger sister May are living at 21 Garnier Street in the household of George Ray who had married Clarence's eldest sister Elizabeth.
In 1904 Clarence Wilfred began attending classes at the Secondary School on Victoria Road North and was one of the pupils who in 1906 passed the examination of the Civil Service Commission and were admitted as Boy Artificers on H.M.S. Fisgard (one of the others was Charles White). His course of training successfully completed, he became an Engine Room Artificer in the Royal Navy. From the outset of the Great War he served on H.M.S. Hampshire which, after returning from the Battle of Jutland, was assigned a mission to take Lord Kitchener to Russia. They set out from Scapa Flow on the 5th May 1916 and soon encountered a force nine gale which was being weathered when she probably hit a mine and sank killing all her crew except for 12 crewmen who made it to shore alive. Clarence Wilkinson was not among them.
Further Information
Some of the information above is taken from a memorial booklet published by Southern Grammar School.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website lists Engine Room Artificer 3rd Class, Clarence Wilfred Wilkinson, (272232), Royal Navy, HMS Hampshire, date of death, 05/06/1916, remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial (Panel 15).
Clarence Wilkinson is remembered on the Southern Grammar School WW1 Memorial and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'