William Frederick Porter came to Chelmsford from Norfolk. After working as a bricklayer he served in the army from 1902 to 1905. He married later in 1905 in Springfield and had two children. He worked again as a bricklayer and then as an ostler. As a reservist he was recalled to army at the outbreak of the war and died within 3 weeks at the Battle of Mons. His home was in Arbour Lane. A Norfolk-based brother was also killed.
William was born at Shouldham, a village south-east of King’s Lynn in Norfolk in 1883, the son of William Porter and Emma Porter (nee Grief). His forenames were recorded as ‘Frederick William’ at the time. William’s father had been born in 1854; his mother in 1852; both at Shouldham. They had married in 1875 and in 1881 were living at Shouldham.
William’s siblings, all born at Shouldham, were Arthur Edward Porter (born in 1880), Edward Porter (born in 1884), Florence Emma Porter (born in 1886), Harry Porter (born in 1888) and Fred Porter (born in 1892).
In 1891 the census recorded William, aged eight, resident with his parents and four siblings at Marham High Road, Shouldham. William’s father and eldest brother were agricultural labourers.
The 1901 census found William, aged 18, living with uncle and aunt, George and Jessie Mace, their sons George and Herbert, and a lodger at 26 Weight Road in Springfield. William, like his uncle, was a bricklayer. The Mace’s were still there in 1918.
Aged 19 years and 11 months William attested to join the Norfolk Regiment on 9th September 1902 at Chelmsford. His terms of service were three years in the regulars and nine in the reserves. At the time he was still a bricklayer. The following day he was passed medically fit at Warley. His medical examination record shows that he was five feet three inches tall, weighed 121 pounds, had a chest of 33 inches, a fresh complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair, had a mole on his right forearm and was a member of the Church of England.
William left the regular army in 1905, and later that year, on 7th October he married Florence Emily Radley at All Saints’ Church in Springfield. He was aged 23, lived in Springfield and was a bricklayer. She was four years his junior and also lived in Springfield.
The couple went on to have two children: Leslie Vernon Porter, born in Springfield on 14th August 1908 and William Frederick Porter, born on 17th May 1912 at Great Baddow.
William was recorded by the register of electors at 55 Arbour Lane, Springfield from at least 1907. The census from 1911 listed William at the same address, living with his wife and elder son. At that time he was an ostler working for a publican.
PORTER, WILLIAM FREDERICK,
Private, 1st Battalion, Norfolk Regiment
On 30th March 1914 WIlliam signed an agreement to extend his time in the army reserve for a further four years, ending on 8th September 1918. However, as a reservist William was recalled to the 1st Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, a regular unit of the army on the 5th August 1914, the day after the outbreak of war. At the time the battalion was in barracks in Belfast, Ireland, but on 14th August 1914 it landed in France and almost immediately saw action at the Battle of Mons.
William went missing at the start of the Battle of Mons, on 22nd August 1914, while serving as Private 3/6271 in the 1st Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment. His wife was notified that he was missing on 1st March 1915 and he was officially presumed to have been killed by the army on 17th February 1916. A few weeks later, on 24th March 1916 the War Office wrote to the infantry records office at Warley asking that any articles of William’s personal property should be forwarded to his widow who was then living at 13 Arbour Lane, Springfield (later renumbered as 26 Arbour Lane, and now demolished).
He is commemorated on La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial, which commemorates nearly 4,000 officers and men of the British Expeditionary Force who died in August, September and the early part of October 1914 and who have no known grave. La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre is a town on the River Marne in the Seine-et-Marne Department some 66 kilometres east of Paris. William is also commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford (the earliest known death commemorated there) and on the Springfield Parish Memorial at All Saints’ Church.
He was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal. William’s widow acknowledged receipt of the latter two medals on 2nd August 1923.
William’s brother Edward, a soldier since 1902 was killed on 28th August 1916 while serving a Serjeant 6350 in the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment and a prisoner of war in Basra. Their cousin, Albert Edward Porter was killed on 3rd May 1915 while serving as Gunner 153728 with F Battery, 14th Brigade of the Royal Horse Artillery.
In May 1919 William’s father, widowed that year, and William’s sister Florence Mitchell were resident at Forester’s Row, Shouldham in Norfolk. William’s brother Fred was, at that time, serving as a police officer at Leman Street Police Station in Whitechapel, London, while another brother Harry was living at 36 Church End, Hendon in London. Their father died in 1935.
William’s widow remarried twice before her death in 1955. Her second husband was Robert Sutton (1863-1941) who she married in 1922, producing two sons; and her third husband was Joseph A. Turner who she married in 1946.