Not Jossa South London Family (Part 5)


John Felix 1887-1951

John Felix Jossa (Jacqueline Jossa’s Great Grandfather) was the youngest of the Jossa brothers, born in 1887, just two years old when his Mother died, and seven when his Father remarried. John lasted longer at home with his Father and Step Mother than his brothers, right up to the age of twenty-two, and followed his Father’s trade in Engineering. So it seems that John Felix was perhaps, the “well-behaved son”. Being younger, and seeing the scrapes his brothers had got into with the Police, Magistrates, Workhouse, Army, and Navy, he may have had a more measured approach to life.

Despite being a bit less headstrong than his Brothers, John was not without an adventurous side, and on 22nd May 1909 he boarded the SS Philadelphia and sailed for the USA no doubt to escape home, and find a new life in the USA. Eight days later he disembarked in New York. As we have already seen in Part 3, John worked as a machinist, and lived with some members of his Mother’s extended Somers Family. In 1910 big brother Louis, freshly back from the Boer War, joined John and the Somers, living in an apartment with a friend of theirs named John Curran, their future brother in law.

John was a Machinist in a Machine Workshop, Louis was a worker in an Iron Foundry, and John Curran was a woodworker on the Railways, the Somers were working as a Car Inspector on the local Street Railway, and a Telephone Operator.

Their apartment was near 10th Avenue, Amsterdam Avenue at the time, or Death Avenue as the locals called it, because of the high numbers of deaths caused by the locomotives that crossed the roads in the area. To try to cut down on this high death rate “Westside Cowboys” were employed to ride in front of trains to warn pedestrians to clear the way, these men were present riding the streets from 1851 to 1941. One can be seen in the photo below.

Everyone in the apartment with John was English, apart from John Curran who was Irish. English born people were the third largest immigrant group in their block, after “Yiddish” Russian Jewish immigrants (and one Austrian Jewish Family) and Italians, followed by Germans. Almost all the Americans in the block were children living with their immigrant parents. The English don’t really fit the representation of immigrants that are normally associated with New York in the early 20th Century, the English (and they do call themselves English not British) were probably barely seen as “foreign” compared to their more exotic neighbours, so, despite their large numbers, tend to be overlooked in popular US culture.

The 12th Ward of Manhattan were the brothers lived was a poor one, and this was reflected in the diseases that plagued the area, in 1910 it was reported that the 12th Ward was the worst for disease in the whole of Manhattan with 188 cases of Measles (Measles was a killer disease for children in the early 20th Century), 104 cases of Scarlet Fever, 55 cases of Diphtheria.

Back to Britain

In 1912, two Years before the outbreak of WW1, John was working as a Machinist in New York, and had stated his intention to take up US Citizenship. But with the outbreak of the Great War two years later in 1914, John’s loyalty to Great Britain came to the fore. Giving up a comfortable, and safe living in New York, John braved the U-Boats to cross the Atlantic back to England to help as a machinist in Woolwich Arsenal.

Experienced Munitions Machinists were highly sought after for the War effort, and therefore exempt from military service. John lives initially at home with his Father and Step-Mother at 4 Congo Road, both men supporting the War effort, John as a “Turner” and his Father Charles as a Fitter, both skilled trades. Alongside the skilled men “volunteers” mainly older businessmen from other trades, gave their time to work alongside the professional tradesmen, that, as illustrated in the picture below, was remarked on at the time.

In July 1918 John married Sarah Anne Jones a Farmer’s daughter, who had left her Father’s Farm to help the War effort as a munitions worker in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, and was living at Hinstock Road in Plumstead, about 15 minutes walk from Congo Road where John was living.

With most of the able bodied male population away fighting, women stepped up and took to working in munitions to help with the War effort, without their work, the war would never have been won.

MUNITIONS PRODUCTION ON THE HOME FRONT, 1914-1918 (Q 110261) Young female munition workers filling shells in a factory at an undisclosed location. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205352942

Many of these women may never have been away from home before, and were thrown into fulltime dangerous work for the greater good. Some lived with relatives and friends in the area, but many lived in local Hotels and Hostels that were specially set aside for their use, as Women Only Establishments, it would appear from reports at the time, that this built a great camaraderie for many such girls and women, giving them their first taste of Independance and social freedom, as the picture below illustrates.

After marriage the couple settled down to live at 93 Durham Rise, Woolwich, just 5 or 10 minutes walk from John’s Father’s House at Congo Road.

Deaths in the Family

However the proximity to John’s father would be short lived, as his Father Charles died on 1st October 1919, was laid to rest on 6th October, and his will was passed through probate on 24th October.

Charles Jossa, the Engineer from Belgium, who had come to England, married twice, and raised five sons, before the death of his first wife, and the subsequent alienation between his sons and his second wife, left an inheritance of £972 6s 11d to his second wife Ann Jossa (Anna Brewer Taylor the Boys’ Stepmother). That amount of money is roughly equivalent to between £250,000 to £385,000 in today’s value. Fairly soon after her husband’s death Anna went back to where she grew up at Quidhampton just outside Salisbury in Wiltshire, and died there in 1924, at 67 years of age, she never remarried. When she died Anna left £154 16s 3d (£26,000 to £51,000 in today’s money) to Mary Jane Hale her widowed sister. Once again this points to a serious family rift between the boys and their Father/Stepmother, other than with John’s brief return before marrying and moving on, there is little evidence of the rift ever being fully healed.

John Felix Jossa, and his wife had troubles of their own. Their daughter Mary Harriett was born in 1919, around the time of John’s Father’s death, but she would be dead by April 1920. The dates of the deaths of Charles Jossa and Mary Harriett, place them squarely in the middle of the Influenza Pandemic.

The Blitz

But not all was bad news for John Felix Jossa and Sarah Ann, the couple would have three sons and two more daughters from 1921 to 1930. John kept to the same occupation of an engineering machinist, at a time when there was continued high demand, especially for munitions workers at Woolwich Arsenal, by 1940 32,500 workers were employed in Woolwich Arsenal. During World War 2 the ordnance factories at Woolwich were targets for German bombs and Rockets, starting in the Blitz in September 1940, there were many raids, and much damage inflicted, during 25 raids 103 workers were killed and 770 injured, forcing some parts of the complex to be moved to other locations.

It seems that John Felix, having seen the adventures and misadventures of his brothers, and having had a few of his own, had decided that the most important thing in life was a stable family home. His and his brothers’ experiences with his Father and Stepmother, the gradual alienation and disintegration of the Jossa Family unit, would have reinforced a psychological need to provide a stable home, and that is exactly what John and Sarah built over many years between the two World Wars and after. The couple would spend the rest of their lives at 93 Durham Rise. John died in 1951 and Sarah Ann in 1968.

There is one more story to tell, this will be of World War 2 and will come in the next instalment.

Not “Jossa” South London Family (Part 4)


In the last instalment Part 3 we saw how Louis “Lewis” Jossa joined the Rifle Brigade and travelled to South Africa and The USA, in this part we see the next younger brother Charles, who also had a career in the armed forces but of a very different type.

Charles Jossa 1883-1964

Charles Jossa, named after his Father, was the fourth son of Charles Jossa and Mary Somers the Publican’s daughter (Jacqueline Jossa’s Great Great Uncle). Mary died when Charles was six years old, and was leven when his Father re-married to Anna Brewer Taylor the Domestic Nurse from Wiltshire. As we have seen, all was not well between the Stepmother and her step sons, and that was no different for Charles than for his brothers, by the age of fourteen Charles ran away from home.

Workhouse Delinquent 1898

On 16th May 1898 Charles turned up in the records of the local Woolwich Workhouse, sent there by a local Magistrate. This was a desperate measure considering he had come from a very comfortable home. There are numerous reasons why a boy of Charle’s age could have been sent to the workhouse, but few that fit his family background, so the likeliest reason is that he had runaway from home and was living on the streets, perhaps living on his wits and causing mischief of one kind or another, which would have brought him to the notice of the local Police and then to the Magistrates. Normally a child with able and settled parents would not be sent to the workhouse, so he may either have claimed to be an orphan or he may have been too wild for his parents to control him.

A week after entering the Workhouse, Charles has let it, but only to be handed over into Police custody. It is likely that he was temporarily returned to his Father and Stepmother, as we haven’t found a record of a court appearance.

The Call of The Sea 1900

His time at home was short and he appears to have taken off again soon after, this time on a fishing boat, this doesn’t last long, as in January 1900 Charles turns up at Portland Dorset (below)at the tender age of sixteen where he is enrolled as a “Boy 2nd Class” in the Royal Navy. We know he had been employed as a Fisherman as this is recorded on his Naval record. We also know that he is only 5ft 2ins with the usual Jossa brown eyes and black hair, his complexion is initially recorded as “Fresh” but once he is and adult it is recorded as “Dark” which would imply that he tanned easily and possibly had a dark stubble.

To be taken on as a Boy in the Royal Navy needed the agreement of his legal Guardians, so his Father, no doubt quite relived to be getting shot of him to somewhere other than the Police or the Workhouse, signed him up for training as a Boy Sailor to be followed by 12 years in the Naval Service. Off Charles went to Portland in Dorset on the South Coast to be trained aboard HMS Boscawen the Royal Navy’s Boys Training Establishment, Boscawen at this date was actually the former HMS Trafalgar.

In July 1900, just over six months after joining the Navy, Charles “Ran” (deserted) from Boscawen, he was recovered from him absence, and continued to serve on the ship through the rest of the year and into February 1901, achieving a promotion to “Boy 1st Class”. From February to May of 1901 he was aboard HMS Minotaur with Very Good Conduct (VGC), May to June 1901 Charles was onboard HMS Agincourt another training ship in Portland.

From Boy to Man

Charles settled down again, and was posted to HMS Prince George in June 1901 which was part of the Channel Fleet, by October of that year Charles was old enough to go from rating as a “Boy” to “Ordinary Seaman”, with a Very Good Conduct (VGC) on his record.

HMS Prince George

That is, until December 1901 when he Ran again. During this four month absence in early 1902 Charles joined the 8th Hussars, took the signing on bounty, then promptly deserted with the money, the Army recaptured him and when they found out he was a Sailor on the run returned him to the Navy on the 17th April 1902. Upon return he was tried and sentenced to a custodial term of Hard Labour (convicts at Hard Labour in Portland below).

After two months of Hard Labour Charles was back aboard HMS Duke of Wellington in June 1902. The Duke of Wellington (below) was the Admiral’s Flagship in Portsmouth Harbour, and tended to perform ceremonial duties like firing gun salutes to passing dignitaries and foreign ships etc. It seems that his erratic record did not inhibit Charles’ opportunity for fairly comfortable postings.

Across the Wide Atlantic

Charles then transfers to HMS Ariadne in July 1902, and is shipped out to Halifax Nova Scotia as Flagship to that Naval Station. During the rest of 1902 Charles steamed aboard the Ariadne to Newfoundland, Quebec, Charlottetown, and then South to Bermuda.

HMS Ariadne in Nova Scotia

Charles seems to be enjoying the life at sea, and receives a Good Conduct citation in December 1903, and stays aboard Ariadne until 10th April 1904. But Charles being Charles, he then receives 90 days hard labour for “breaking out of ship etc”. The picture below is of a Gun Crew on Ariadne in 1903, when Charles was on board, can’t help thinking that the bloke second from right fits the description?

“Cushy” Posting

Charles is shipped back to Portsmouth, where we next find him on another “cushy” posting, this time for 6 months on “Firequeen” the steam tender for HMS victory in Portsmouth harbour (below). This boat is used to transport guests and dignitaries to and from Victory, crew seemed to be as least partly chosen for being young but experienced men, and, based on other men I have traced as serving on this boat, quite possibly, picked for how they looked, as a proportion on them went on to have adventurous private lives. This may not be as outlandish as it sounds, as one of the crew’s main duties was ferrying VIPs and Guests to functions on the Victory, and to various ceremonials and diplomatic engagements in Portsmouth.

Charles was moved to HMS Indefatigable (below) in January 1905, he managed 4 months, was given shore leave shortly before the ship is due to sail to Canada, and failed to return. Charles is recaptured, charged with “Leave Breaking” and is sentenced to another 28 days Hard Labour in May 1905. By this point The Navy’s patience ran out and at the end of his sentence Charles was discharged from service.

So Charles’s Naval record is a bizarre mixture of soft placements, desertions, and Hard Labour, with stable Good Conduct periods in between. This would imply that he is generally a competent Sailor, and very presentable, but may have occasionally gone on a bender while ashore, or possible overstayed his leave in pursuit of female company. This is reinforced by the fact that he is rarely gone for very long, so either the shore Patrol know where to find him, or he drifts back to his ship with a sore head and a smile on his face, probably after his money runs out. The fact that on his longest absence he joins the 8th Hussars, then immediately deserts, bears this out, as it was not an uncommon ploy for experienced “old lags” to join a Regiment, then abscond with their joining bounty payment as soon as it was paid.

Itinerant worker Canada & USA

Fresh out of the Navy in 1905, Charles books passage on a steamship and headed for Quebec in Canada, looking for work as a Labourer. He next turns up in the same year 1905 in Vancouver, and then Seattle with $20 in his pocket, working as a seaman, on board the SS Lake Manitoba of the Western Steam Navigation Company, the documents show that this was his second visit to Seattle. Charles then spends some time in Calgary Alberta, Canada, but left there in 1908 and crossed the US border from Canada at Eastport Idaho, heading for Spokane to work as a Labourer. He seems to have been travelling to wherever there was work and gives his brother Louis’s home in Toronto as contact for next of kin.

US Marine Corps

In November 1909 Charles is in San Francisco California, enlists in the US Marine Corps, and is transferred to Mare Island, the first US Naval Base on the Pacific Coast, and still the only major US Navy shipyard and US Marine training depot on the Pacific Coast in 1909. Charles must have looked like a perfect recruit to the US Marine Office in San Francisco; several years of experience in the British Navy, and an ex-Merchant Seaman who had travelled across the Atlantic and down the Pacific Coast of Canada and the USA, the small, strong, and dark complexioned “Limey”, with arms covered in Naval Tattoos (crossed flags, and clasped hands across a heart) must have presented a very different figure from the fresh faced farm boys who normally went through the Recruiting Office.

This is borne out, as after only 20 days of training Charles is shipped off with a set of other Marines to help establish the new US Marine Base at Puget Sound, Washington, way up North on the Canadian Border. Charles last appears on the muster rolls as “under instruction” for a further two weeks in January 1910.

At some time after his training, Charles skips the US Marine Corps and appears later in 1910 living in an address in Portland Oregon, working as a Labourer.

Canada and WW1

There is then a gap of four years in the records before Charles travels in April 1914 on the Canadian Pacific Railroad from the USA to Toronto Canada. On 4th August 1914 Great Britain declared war on Germany, and on 24th September 1914 Charles walks into a recruiting Office to join the Canadian Army. He states that he has been serving in a Canadian Militia Unit; these were part time Units who mustered and took drill and rifle practice a few times per year, they received some expenses for doing so. In Canada this was almost treated as a hobby by many men, rather than a serious military force. Tellingly Charles makes no mention of his time in the US Marine Corps, reinforcing the likelihood that he had probably parted company with the US Marines of his own volition, and didn’t want to advertise the fact.

We get another glimpse of Charles when he signed up at the Canadian Militia muster at Valcartier Camp, North West of Quebec City. Recorded as 5ft 6ins, dark complexion, brown eyes, black hair 38in chest with 3in expansion, tattoos both arms, and employed in civilian life as a Roofer. Charles signs on as a Cook 1st Class and because of that he receives a guaranteed wage called a “Civilian Wage” supplement, and therefore higher than a normal soldier’s pay, as the Canadian Government believes that highly employable men in civilian life would need an extra incentive to join up.

Being a man with experience in the Royal Navy another cushy appointment came Charles’ way, when he was appointed as a Signaller on the Brigade Staff of the 3rd Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery (CFA), Charles would have been familiar with flag and light signalling from his Royal Naval Training, and handling big guns and small arms, and being a Cook his availability at Brigade Headquarters would be less of an issue than for a normal gunner. Charles is recorded as being in the First Contingent of CFA troops leaving for Europe, when he shipped out in October 1914. Although holding the Rank of Gunner (equivalent to a Private) he is confirmed as Cook 1st Class on pay awards.

Marriage 1915, then to France

Charles was shipped to England, and was at various sites in England for several months, long enough in fact to get married on 28th August 1915 to Lilly Elizabeth Faulkner, a Labourer’s daughter from Barking in Essex. Lilly came from a large Family who all worked in Barking Gasworks and the that Chemical Works nearby it, so Lilly may have been doing War Work either in a Gas Works or in munitions when she Charles. Two days after the wedding Charles shipped out to France. The Honeymoon was short lived, and Charles didn’t get more leave until April 1916. From the date of his Marriage Charles had a proportion of his pay, $20 per month, sent directly to Lillian in Barking.

Being a Cook and Signaller with Brigade HQ Charles would not have been subject to the worst of risk in the Front Line, but he would have faced risk from shell fire and snipers, especially if trying to get supplies up to the troops engaging the enemy.

Leaving the Army and Family Tragedy 1916-1918

On 1st January 1916 the Canadian Government decided to stop the Working Pay Allowance, with the proviso that any troops who had signed up on the basis of receiving it, would be allowed to ask for immediate discharge as soon as a replacement was found for them. Charles took the opportunity to ask for his discharge in August 1916, and was transferred to the reserves prior to shipping back to Canada. However this seems to have caused Charles a problem, as he lodges an official complaint that the authorities should have continued paying him his Working Pay while he was waiting to be formally discharged in Canada.

Be that as it may Charles is past as fit to travel by an Army Doctor, at Shorncliff Barracks in Folkestone Kent, deemed clear of any venereal or other infectious disease (always nice to know) he was shipped back to Canada in September 1916, where after a short delay, he was discharged on 1st October 1916. In the early part of 1917 Charles would have heard from Lillian that he now had a daughter called Julia (named after Lilly’s Mum), her conception lines up directly with Charles brief 8 days of leave in England in 1916. At some stage we know that Charles returns to England, there is no record of his arrival back in the UK. What we do know is that early in 1918 a son is born to the couple, also called Charles George (named after his father and his maternal Grandfather), so the inference is that Charles was back in the UK soon after he left the Canadian Army. Tragically in the summer of 1918 both of the children died, as did Lilly’s Father George Faulkner. Their deaths coincided with the fatal Spanish Flu Pandemic that swept across the world at the time.

Canada Again 1919

No doubt devastated by the death of their children and Lilly’s Father, it must have seemed like the world was falling apart, and no doubt driven by Charles experiences, the couple made the decision to try for a better life in Canada. Seeing the flu pandemic sweep through the country, where up to a quarter of the population were infected, and roughly 228,000 died of the disease, going to Canada would have looked like a good choice to escape it, although the death rate was the same as in the UK given the much smaller population, the infection rate was a little lower due to the less concentrated population density in Canada. The couple reached Halifax Nova Scotia in Canada in 1919, on a ship containing returning US and Canadian ex-servicemen and their dependents, Charles marked as a Returning Canadian and Lilly as a Military Dependent. Charles job title is still “Roofer”. The couple stayed in Canada through the 1920s, and in 1921 their daughter Jessie was born (named after Lilly’s youngest sister).

Back to England 1930s

By 1930 the couple decided to return to the UK, they sailed across the Atlantic once more, first Lilly and Jessie in July 1930 on the Aurania, followed by Charles on the Ascania. The couple with their daughter Jessie move back to Barking, where Charles takes up a job as a Public Works Labourer, doing Heavy Work. The couple stayed in Essex, eventually moving to Ilford, where Charles died in the 1960s and Lilly a few years later in the 1970s.

I wondered how many of their Essex neighbours realised what a colourful and hard life the couple had lead; Lilly who had seen such pain and travelled across the Atlantic and back, to find happiness, Charles, with his self confidence, and his blatant working class Cockney disregard for authority, his dark good looks and tattooed arms. Very few men could say that they had served in The Royal Navy, been given hard Labour by The Navy, ferried dignitaries around Portsmouth Harbour for the Admiral, Joined the British Army in the 8th Hussars, then deserted was recaptured and sent back to The Navy, joined The US Marine Corps in California and Puget Sound, and was perhaps technically still on the run from them, served in The Canadian Militia, and then served in The Canadian Army, as a Signaller, Gunner, and Cook, and had been on the Front in France during WW1!

Some people just see “Old People” and write them off, but behind the wrinkled smile maybe there’s a story of rebellion and adventure just waiting to be found.

In Part 5 we will see what happened to Jacqueline Jossa’s Great Grandfather, John Felix Jossa.

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Not “Jossa” South London Family (Part 3)


Louis (“Lewis”) James Jossa 1881-1951

Cartridge Boys

“Lewis” (Jacqueline Jossa’s Great Great Uncle) was working full time from his early teens as a Cartridge Boy in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich doing the unskilled and somewhat dangerous work of filling cartridges with explosive powder. After his Father’s marriage to Annie Taylor he started showing signs of anti-social behaviour; in 1897 he was caught letting off fireworks in the street and received a court appearance and a fine for his efforts. Having said that, throwing a few Bangers around probably didn’t seem like such a big deal to a boy who risked having a hand blown off any day at work while loading explosives into cartridges. He got a five shilling fine, and no doubt a clip ’round the ear from the PC who nicked him, and probably from his Dad when he got home.

Louis carried on working in the Royal Arsenal, but just being a Labourer there, although regular fairly well paid work, obviously didn’t suit him, perhaps living at home with a new Step-Mother, and normal teenage rebelliousness all contributed to his desire to seek pastures new, and in the Spring of 1899, at the age of 17, he walked into an Army Recruiting Office, and joined his local Regiment, the 3rd Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment. We know from the records that he had Brown Hair and eyes, and like the rest of his Family was a Roman Catholic. He was known in the amy as “Lewis” Jossa.

Louis wasn’t a big chap at 17, only 5 feet 4 inches tall and 115lbs (just over 8 Stone) but he was used to handling explosives, was physically fit, and after being drilled at the Barracks for three months, and was most likely a crack shot, as he was soon put forward as a good candidate for The King’s Royal Rifle Corps. The KRRC were an elite regiment who traditionally recruited shorter men, who were considered wiry and fast moving, presenting a smaller target on the battlefield and when used as snipers. In July 1899 “Lewis” joined the Corps. This was an upward move in his Services Career.

Louis spent the first 18 months at home in England then in Cork in the South of Ireland learning Rifle drill, marksmanship, and marching at double time. In December 1901 his Battalion was shipped out to South Africa where the Second Boer War was being fought by the British against the White South African Boers. A Mounted Infantry Company had gone ahead, to be followed by Louis and the Infantry. They arrived at Durban from where they proceeded to Harrismith 200 miles away, in the Newly formed British Orange River Colony.

KRRC in South Africa

The Infantry Battalion’s first job was to build a line of Fortified Block Houses with areas of barbed wire in between, these were manned and defended, whilst the Cavalry and Mounted Infantry attempted to Drive the enemy Boer Units onto the Rifles of the infantry’s defensive positions, effectively surrounding and cutting off Boer Units and forcing their surrender. The Blockhouses and their barbwire stretched for over 3,000 miles. Louis’s position near Harrismith can be seen on the map below the label “DE WET” the name of the local Boer Enemy Commander.

One odd feature of British Soldiers’ humour, was that almost every Blockhouse had it’s own dummy guards and dummy cannon, setup partly as a joke, and partly to draw Boer fire, especially at night, so that the Boers would give away their positions whilst “Tommy Atkins” was safely within the Blockhouse defences.

The King’s Royal Rifles took part in a number of confrontations with the Boers for which they were commended by Lord Kitchener. As the Cavalry Columns drove the Boers towards the Block Houses and Barbed Wire, attacks would take place to try to force a way through.

So it is highly likely that Louis saw a fair amount of action, as he not only received the South Africa Campaign Medal, but also three “Clasps” to denote were he took part, Louis had the Cape Colony, Orange Free State and the 1902 Clasps. Louis would stay in South Africa through 1902 and the end of the War.

One notable clash took place when General Christiaan De Wet, the local Boer Commander, successfully tried a new tactic of having his mounted “Commandos” drive herds of cattle into the barbed wire to force a way through, he successfully escaped from British pursuit by employing this tactic, although, such attempts were not always successful, with the British firing from their Blockhouse with tracer bullets, and employing trains mounted with searchlights and Machine Guns to try to intercept the Boer Columns.

At the end of the War Louis and the KRRC were shipped out, and between 1903 and 1905 Louis was back in the UK, then between 1905 and 1907 was stationed in Malta, one of the main British Garrison Islands in the Mediterranean. In 1907 he returned to the UK. It seems that Louis served his time well in the Army, but like so many soldiers, when not in action, the Devil would make work for is idle hands, and on two occasions outside of his time in South Africa he lost his Good Conduct Standing and pay, although on each occasion is was restored.

In 1907 Louis left the Regular Forces and went back to Civvie Street, but still serving in the 1st Class Army Reserves, so attended occasional musters and would have received a small payment as being liable to recall in time of War. At this time he sought and gained permission to settle in Canada whilst in the Army Reserve.

In August 1907 Louis sailed in steerage aboard the steamer Corsican, bound for Toronto, registered as a “City” Labourer (as opposed to an Agricultural Labourer). He didn’t last long in Canada, work may have been had to come by, and within 6 months was heading south to New York to seek work. Some years later in 1910 the British Military would strike him off the reserves list for “illegal absence” from musters, probably completely unaware that Louis was by then living in New York.

It’s possible that some members of his Mother’s extended Somers Family were already in New York, and may have sent Louis word about opportunities there, as in 1910 we find Louis living in an apartment with three members of the extended Somers Family, a Widow with two grown up children, plus Louis’s younger brother John Jossa, and a friend of theirs named John Curran, more of whom later.

Louis was a worker in an Iron Foundry, his brother John was a Machinist in a Machine Workshop, and John Curran was a woodworker on the Railways, while the Somers were working as a Car Inspector on the local Street Railway, and a Telephone Operator.

10th/Amsterdam/Death Avenue NY 1910

Their apartment was near 10th Avenue, Amsterdam Avenue at the time, or Death Avenue as the locals called it, because of the high numbers of deaths caused by the locomotives that crossed the roads in the area. Everyone in the apartment with Louis was English, apart from John Curran who was Irish, and indeed English born people were the third largest immigrant group in their block, after “Yiddish” Russian Jewish immigrants (and one Austrian Jewish Family) and Italians, followed by Germans, almost all the Americans in the block were children living with their immigrant parents. The English don’t really fit the representation of immigrants that are normally associated with New York in the early 20th Century, the English (and they do call themselves English not British) were probably barely seen as “foreign” compared to their more exotic neighbours, so, despite their large numbers, tend to be overlooked in popular US culture.

The 12th Ward of Manhattan were the brothers lived was a poor one, and this was reflected in the diseases that plagued the area, in 1910 it was reported that the 12th Ward was the worst for disease in the whole of Manhattan with 188 cases of Measles (Measles was a killer disease for children in the early 20th Century), 104 cases of Scarlet Fever, 55 cases of Diphtheria.

Despite the challenges, in 1911, Louis married an Irish girl named Elizabeth Curran, the sister of his friend John Curran. They began to raise a Family with Charles in 1912, Louis 1913, George 1916, and Ellen in 1917. Louis had managed to move away from Labouring and was working as an Elevator Operator by 1915, and despite being on the draft for WW1 and having an experience of battle conditions in the Boer War, was never called upon to serve, probably because of his age and lack of citizenship. At the end of the War in 1918 Louis finally applied to become a US Citizen.

By 1920 Louis had returned to being a Labourer, now in the New York Shipyards, perhaps the money was better in the Shipyards, or perhaps work was hard to find? Sometime in the 1920s Louis and Elizabeth’s daughter Ellen disappears from the records, the inference being that she had died as a child. In 1922 Louis took the family North to Elizabeth’s brother’s Farm (Edward Curran) in Edmonton Alberta Canada, it’s not clear if that was for work or a family visit, but we do know that Edward was an ex-soldier who had been given a grant to build a farmstead in the Canadian Plains in 1921, under the “Soldier Settlement” scheme, aimed at bringing British ex-soldiers over to settle in the Canadian Prairies. So it’s possible that if work was in short supply in New York, the Jossa’s moved to Canada to help Edward on the Farm, maybe even to look into setting there themselves.

However, there were still costs involved, so new settlers needed capital to setup, even ex-soldiers needed large loans at times. Whatever the reason, by 1925 Louis and family were back in New York, and Louis had found work as an Electrician. The family’s neighbours are now predominantly Italians, and native born Americans, as well as a few English and Scandinavians, not many people registered as German, as there were some mixed feelings about Germans after WW1.

There was little change for the Family as the as the 1930s arrived, they still lived in the Amsterdam Avenue area, Louis was an Elevator Mechanic, but now his elder sons Charles and Louis were working for a Brokerage Company as a Runner and a Clerk respectively, strangely the younger Louis also appears on the 1930 census on April 1st (9 days earlier) as an ordinary seaman onboard the USS Neches, perhaps he gave up a life on ships in the time in between? Most of their neighbours were now Americans, with a large Irish population, some Canadians and Russians, and a smattering of English, Scandinavian and German immigrants, plus the odd Turk, Hungarian, and a Japanese Cook.

By the 1940s there was still little change for the family, still living at Amsterdam Avenue, Louis still working as an Elevator Operator, Charles their eldest son had left home, while Louis Junior and George were still at home, however the stock market crash that started in 1929 had put paid to their careers ion brokerage, with the value of stocks and shares collapsing, closing companies, throwing thousands out of work, and causing the start of the great depression.

The boys were lucky, they managed to get jobs Louis Jnr now worked as a typesetter on the New York Times, whilst George had got a job through his Dad as an Elevator Operator.

The Jossa’s neighbours were mainly American born, but with notable numbers of Russians, Germans, Irish, English, and a smattering of Hungarians and other East Europeans, and a few Canadians and Scots.

Come the outbreak of WW2 Louis signed up for the “Old Man’s” draft, which was quite an optimistic thing to do given that he was 61 years old by then, but hats off to him for chutzpah. At the time he was an Elevator Operator for Gresham Realty.

After the War Louis and Elizabeth retired to Santa Barbara California where their eldest son Charles had settled.

In Part 4 we shall see what happened to Charles Jossa, and his adventures in the workhouse, Navy, Marines, and Army, across England, USA and Canada.

This is a small extract of the type of work Time Detectives carries out for clients when tracing their Family Histories. We produce Family Trees, and Family Stories ranging from £300-£600. They make an ideal gift for Christmas, Birthdays, Weddings, Wedding Anniversaries, and Fathers and Mothers Days. If you would like your Family Tree Researched why not drop us a line with an enquiry to paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk. We’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Not “Jossa” South London Family (Part 2)


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.

Destroyed Dugouts

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.

This is a small extract of the type of work Time Detectives carries out for clients when tracing their Family Histories. We produce Family Trees, and Family Stories ranging from £300-£600. They make an ideal gift for Christmas, Birthdays, Weddings, Wedding Anniversaries, and Fathers and Mothers Days. If you would like your Family Tree Researched why not drop us a line with an enquiry to paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk. We’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Published in: on January 3, 2020 at 5:04 pm  Comments (1)  
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Not “Jossa” South London Family


Part 1 Great Britain: A Land of Opportunity

Jacqueline Jossa is an actress well known for her part as Lauren Branning in East Enders, but her Family is more associated with South of the River than the East End, but that’s not all, there is a whole Family story covering Belgium to Canada, and The USA to France, so not “Jossa” South London Family!

The name itself has a number of separate origins, in Spain, Hungary, Germany, and Italy. But is so rare in the UK that all the Jossa’s in the UK are likely related, with the exception of recent arrivals from the EU.

A Belgian Engineer

The earliest ancestor that can be linked to Jacqueline via the records is Augustine Jossa, Jacqueline Jossa’s Great-Great-Great Grandfather whose son Charles Jossa, (Jacqueline Jossa’s Great Great Grandfather) was born in Belgium and came to England during the mid-Victorian period.

Charles Jossa was a Machine Fitter, a skilled worker, and came to work in the Industrial Town of Wallsall during the 1870s.

Charles Jossa

Publican’s Daughter

Frequenting the local Pubs, Charles dark good looks had drawn the attention of the Publican’s daughter in The Greyhound Inn, in Upper Rushall Street Wallsall. This was Mary Somers a Catholic Girl and the daughter of George Somers an Irish Publican who ran the Bull’s Head before George changed its name to “The Greyhound”.

The Malt Shovel Oldbury

He had moved the family up from Oldbury where he had run “The Malt Shovel”, frequented by the local Iron Workers, many of them themselves Irish, he ran a tight house and was not a man to be meddled with. The Greyhound could also be boisterous, and Mary’s Father George wasn’t beyond throwing out rowdies when the occasion arose, as in 1874 when one Michael Melville became “Drunk and Quarrelsome” picked a fight with another customer, and found himself slung out by George. So once our Charles Jossa had caught the eye of Mary Somers, it was beyond doubt that he would be doing the right thing by her, and in 1876 the two were married in Wallsall.

Move South

The couple had two sons in Walsall, George 1877 and Martin 1879, before moving to Nottingham, where son Lewis was born 1881. The Family’s stay in Nottingham was temporary, and by 1881 they had made a major move, South, to the Woolwich/Plumstead area of Kent, that would become part of South East London. Charles’ and Mary’s last two sons, the first called Charles after his Father in 1883 and John in 1885 were born in Plumstead, where the Family lived for a while in Walmer Road.

The reason this area was chosen for the move was that London by the South Bank of the Thames was a booming in light industrial work feeding into the heavier machine work around the Shipyards, Dockyards, and Railheads on the River Thames. More specifically the area the Jossas settled in was in walking distance of the Royal Arsenal, the preeminent spot for arms and munitions manufacture in the UK.

The area grew substantially at the time of the Jossas’ arrival, and the social side of life improved for workers in the area with guaranteed employment. In 1868 twenty workers set a Cooperative Society, that provided cheaper food, that grew to over half a million members providing Funerals, Housing, Libraries, and Insurance. In 1886 the workers set up the Dial Square Football Club, renamed two weeks later to Royal Arsenal (nicknamed the Woolwich Reds), entering the Football League as Woolwich Arsenal in 1893 (while the Jossas were living there) the team that would eventually become the modern Arsenal Football Club and move North of The River.

A Labourer could make 22s per week, a skilled man more, and there was always a huge amount of overtime available, with men starting at eight in the morning, and working anything up to 14 hours per day, so even unskilled Labourers could earn good wages if they were prepared to work for it. The problem was that there was an abundance of pubs in the area, where the men would come out from work and spend their overtime pay to slake their thirst, it was the mens’ propensity to drink that decided on how comfortable their families would be; the more they drank the poorer they were. Although there was a plethora of Churches and Chapels in the area, they played little part in influencing the habits of the local men, the only exception being the local Wilson’s Baptist Tabernacle, for the abstemious part of the population. We don’t know how this affected Charles, other than it seemed he kept himself away from the worst excesses of the area, and was a member of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) the Union of the various skilled mechanics in the area, and attended lectures given by the society.

Image result for the royal arsenal woolwich history

The Jossa Family could walk to the hills above Woolwich, and look across the buildings of the Royal Arsenal, at the light green of the Marshes that were used as firing ranges, here frequent flashes were followed by the delayed sound of bangs and crumps from the testing of explosives and artillery shells. These explosions would rock whole streets of houses, and when they went wrong could shatter windows in nearby streets, for which there was no recompense for the local householders. Beyond this were the grey waters of the Thames where the River broadened after its confinement on the way around the bend at Poplar and Greenwich. The red sailed Thames Barges on the River filled with cement to feed the building of The City and Hay to feed the Horses that moved the people and goods around The City all brought up from Kent and Essex. On the far side of The River were the Victoria and Albert Docks on the North Bank, filled with masts and sails, and the black and red funnels of sea-going Ships and Ocean Liners. Good wages, five sons and an ever changing panorama of The City and River, Charles had many things that Families could only dream of in Victorian London

In January 1889, the Family would face a crisis. At only 32 years of age, Mary Jossa (Somers) died and was buried at St Margaret’s Church Plumstead. This left Charles with five pre-teen sons to raise. Charles managed to raise the boys as a lone parent to an extent, but as soon as they were old enough to work, the boys left home to find their own way in the world, suggesting that Charles didn’t have the time, or perhaps inclination or patience to look after the boys once Mary died, and they were old enough to work.

It took Charles some years to come to terms with Mary’s death, but eventually in 1894, five years after Mary’s death, Charles married Anna Brewer Taylor, known as Annie Taylor, the daughter of an Agricultural Labourer from Wiltshire. Annie Taylor had spent time in Hospital as a young girl, and her experience there had inspired her to train as Nurse, and then to find work in Croydon, South of London to work in Domestic Service looking after elderly well do Londoners who had moved to the suburbs. Somewhere between Croydon and Plumstead the couple met and married.

For some years the couple continued to live in Walmer Road in Plumstead. However from 1899 they moved to Congo Road Plumstead which would become their home for the next 20 years. Congo Road consisted of older two story houses built in the mid century, with long gardens, families took the houses then sublet, but Charles was earning enough not to need to and had all five rooms to himself and his family. At the front of the houses were small wooden railings, few flowers in the gardens, but many residents keep, pigeons, chickens rabbits and such small livestock.

4 Congo Road, Plumstead

Stepmoms and Stepsons don’t always get along

Even with a new wife there seems to have been little inclination for the boys to stay at home, and once the younger boys were in their teens, they left home at the earliest opportunity.

George Jossa the eldest son left once his father remarried and went to work back in Wallsall with his Irish Publican Grandfather George Somers, in The Greyhound. George Jossa was named after his Grandfather and worked hard in the with him, he was involved for better or worse, including at least one disturbance where a pair of local drunken ruffians were physically turned out of the pub by the two Georges and with the help of a Policeman, but only after one of the ruffians had managed to punch a barmaid. Sadly George Jossa would die a couple of years later at only 20 years of age.

Other signs of problems between the boys and Charles and Annie showed in small details we can glean from the records. In 1897 Lewis (actually anglicised from Louis) Jossa, appeared for the wrong reasons in the local paper:

Lewis was a Cartridge Boy, that meant that he had received a basic education in the Royal Arsenal, but had moved straight into work, probably from around the age of 14, doing the unskilled and somewhat dangerous work of filling cartridges with explosive powder, easy to see how letting off fireworks in the street would have come naturally to him.

So all was not well in the Family, and we will find out more about what happened to the five sons in the next instalment. Follow the blog to make sure you don’t miss the next instalment, and give us a like on the page if you’ve enjoyed it so far.

And you can read Part 2 here.

This is a small extract of the type of work Time Detectives carries out for clients when tracing their Family Histories. We produce Family Trees, Family Stories ranging from £300-£600. They make an ideal gift for Christmas, Birthdays, Weddings, Wedding Anniversaries, and Fathers and Mothers Days. If you would like your Family Tree Researched why not drop us a line with an enquiry to paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk. We’ll look forward to hearing from you.

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