Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

There are a number of men commemorated on Portsmouth WW1 memorials who served in foreign or commonwealth forces. Most of them were Portsmouth born and subsequently emigrated. Joseph William Wilson was one of them.
Although Joseph William was native to Portsmouth his father, Joseph H. Wilson was not, having been born in Bolton, Lancashire in 1848. The records suggest that Joseph H. married Elizabeth (b. 1852, Poole) around the end of the 1860s and that they lived in Deptford for a period during which their first child Margaret was born. By 1881 however they were in Portsmouth at 31 Fitzroy Street with four more children - Alfred, Helen and twins Joseph William and Walter Sydney. As Joseph H. described himself as an engine fitter in the census that year he may have come to Portsmouth in search of work in the Dockyard.
The 1891 census places the family at 33 Harley Street, Fratton and lists one more child - Maud. By the next census in 1901 Joseph H, Elizabeth and Maud were living at 2 Sydenham Terrace whilst the other children had all left home. Joseph William had joined the Royal Navy in 1899 and in 1903 he married Elizabeth Jane Burton in Portsmouth. As neither of them appear in the 1911 census it seems likely that they emigrated after 1903. Joseph presumably transferred to the Australian navy in which he was certainly serving at the outbreak of the Great War when he was aboard HMA Submarine AE1.
AE1 was commanded by Lieutenant Commander Thomas Besant, RN, and was was sent to capture German New Guinea as part of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force. She took part in the operations leading to the occupation of the German territory, including the surrender of Rabaul on 13 September 1914. At 07:00 on 14 September, AE1 departed Blanche Bay, Rabaul, to patrol off Cape Gazelle with HMAS Parramatta. When she had not returned by 20:00, several ships were dispatched to search for her. No trace of the submarine was ever found, and she was listed as lost with all hands. As well as Lieutenant Commander Besant, 2 other officers and 32 sailors were lost in this disaster. The disappearance was Australia's first major loss of World War I.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists Chief Engine Room Artificer Joseph William Wilson (8284), Royal Australian Navy, HMA Sub AE1, died on 14/09/1914. Remembered at the Plymouth Naval Memorial (Panel 4). Son of J. H. and E. Wilson, of Harley St., Fratton, Portsmouth; husband of Elizabeth J. C. Wilson, of 16, Longs Rd., Landport, Portsmouth.
Joseph Wilson is also remembered on the WW1 Memorial at St. Andrew's Church, Farlington and on the Cenotaph. He is listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War', Section X, p253.
If Elizabeth Jane did indeed accompany Joseph William to Australia she must have returned to England after his death as both the CWGC and the National Roll list her as living at 16 Long's Road, Landport.
The WW1 Memorial at St. Andrew's Church, Farlington lists 'JW Wilson RN' which must be Joseph William as there is no one else who fits the criteria, but there is no record of either him or Elizabeth ever living in the vicinity of the church.
Tim Backhouse
April 2014