In Part 1 we saw how Jacqueline Jossa’s Great Great Grandfather Charles Jossa the Engineer left Belgium to find opportunities in Great Britain, starting in the Midlands but eventually settling in Plumstead by the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, where work was plentiful. Charles had married twice, first to an Irish Publican’s daughter Mary Somers, who died young, and secondly to Anni Brewer Taylor, a Domestic Nurse who had come to London from her home in Wiltshire. Charles and his first wife Annie raised five sons, but following his second marriage to Annie Taylor, the relationships with the boys and their Father and Stepmother seem to have broken down. We will now see what happened to his sons.
In this part we will see the two older boys, and then in Part 3 the younger boys including Jacqueline Jossa’s Great Grandfather.
George Augustine Jossa 1877-1897
We saw in Part 1 that cracks began to show when the eldest son George left the family home to go back up North to Walsall and work in his Maternal Grandfather’s Pub, The Greyhound. Like many pubs at the time in working class areas, life for a publican could be challenges, and George and his Grandfather were involved in punch-ups with the worst offenders to keep the pub clear of violent drunks. Sadly George Jossa died, unmarried in Walsall in 1897 at 20 years of age.
Martin Charles Jossa 1879-1943
Martin had also left home and gone “back up North” to Walsall, he had run off with a young woman called Alice Hewitt, unmarried, but living as man and wife. Martin was a Labourer with a Tube Manufacturer, working as a “Puddler” a hot, hard, and sometimes dangerous job, pouring molten metal into moulds during the manufacturing process.
Alice Hewitt was from the little village of Thornham in Kent (modern spelling “Thurnham”), just outside Maidstone, where her Father was a Bricklayer. It isn’t clear where the couple met, but it seems likely that Alice may have gone to London for work.
By 1901 the couple had moved back south to London and in 1901 their daughter Maud Mary Jossa was born in Poplar in the East End that same year. After a couple more years the couple finally married in 1903. But times were hard for unskilled Labourers, and in July 1907 Martin Jossa left Liverpool for Quebec in Canada, travelling in steerage (the lowest class) on the Steamer “Corsican”. It would be over a year later that the couple had saved enough for Alice and seven year old Maud to join Martin in Toronto, travelling 3rd Class onboard the “Empress of India”, again the cheapest travel class, but much better conditions than Martin had travelled in.
Martin and Alice lived in South Toronto, where Martin had come up in the world, finding work as a Machinist, following his Father’s footsteps, and the Family grew, with Charles in 1910. Interestingly, the couple shifted Maud’s birth year in some records to look like she was born after they married, rather than a few years before. In 1913 their third child Octavia was born.
Life had been hard, but worse was to come with the outbreak of WW1 in 1914, the Empire needed men to defend the Mother Country, and in June 1915 Martin signed up at the ripe age of 36. At just 5ft 5ins and 150lbs (less than 11 stone) Martin had Sallow Skin, Brown Eyes and Black Hair. Martin also bore the marks of rough early years with a scar running from his nose downwards across his cheek. He was pronounced fit for service in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on 22nd June 1915, the only other note made by the medical officer were that Martin only had just over half his teeth, eighteen in all.
Martin became a Private in the 59th Battalion (and then the 2nd Battalion) of Canadian Infantry. Martin being slightly older than the average recruit, and showing some aptitude for the hard life of a soldier, was temporarily promoted during basic training to Corporal, and after was shipped out from Montreal to Europe on 13th November 1915. It appears that when in the field his rank returned to Private.
Martin developed a persistent shortness of breath after being pinned down with his unit in a waterlogged trench for several days during an attack, as they advanced during the Battle of Zillebeke in 1916, Martin climbed out of a support trench and took a gunshot wound to his right wrist that knocked his rifle from his grasp, followed by a shell blast that hit the parapet of the trench, knocking Martin back into it, where a mound of Earth, displaced by the blast, buried him alive. Martin was very lucky to survive the gunshot, the blast, and the untimely live burial. He was dug from the earth by his comrades to be sent back behind the lines for treatment.
The effects of being shot, blown-up and buried alive were severe. Martin was diagnosed with Neurasthenia, commonly called “Shell Shock”, this debilitating disease gave Martin headaches, dizziness, and a pulse rate of 110-140 when at rest, as well as bouts of incoherent mumbling. Fortunately for Martin for had received both a bullet wound before the shell blast and been buried alive after it; soldiers suffering from shell shock with no physical signs of injury or extenuating circumstances, were sometimes believed to be shaming illness as a cover for cowardice, and were often sent back to The Front to continue fighting in their debilitated state. Martin’s circumstances meant that he was treated more compassionately, shipped from the Field Hospital, first to Hospital in Norwich England, and then back to Canada. He was found to be unfit for service and discharged with a small pension. Despite what he went through, he was one of the lucky ones.
He went back home to his Wife Alice and his three Children. They lived for the rest of their lives in Canada, although Alice did visit London in the 1920s. Martin suffered from some ill-health for the rest of his life in one form or another, and when he died in 1943, his wife successfully claimed a Pension from the Canadian Government, as the breathing problems he suffered from and that ultimately killed him were put down to the damage to his lungs by his time pinned down under enemy fire in a waterlogged trench.
In Part 3 we will see what happened to Louis Jossa.
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