Bandsman died on Western Front

James Sillence and Clara on their wedding day. They had to keep straight faces because of the camera's long exposure.
James Sillence and Clara on their wedding day. They had to keep straight faces because of the camera's long exposure.

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My recent mid-week articles about the men and women of Portsmouth during the First World War brought a reply from Cheryl Jewitt.

Her grandmother, Clara Eliza Sillence, was one of those women but, while all those I mentioned were unmarried, Cheryl’s grandmother was married with a small child who became Cheryl’s aunt.

Clara become a war widow.

Her husband James had been a bandsman in the Hampshire Regiment and would have expected to be a stretcher bearer during the war.

Because there were two men holding the rank of Band Sergeant, and he being the elder of the two, he chose to let the younger one stay with the band while he went to the front.

He was killed shortly after his arrival in 
France.

Sgt James Sillence is remembered on the war memorial in the town of Ploegsteert, Belgium.

Of course, there was no benefits system in those days so Clara had to find work to support herself and her daughter and got a job in the Dockyard.

There she met her future second husband and Cheryl’s grandfather.