Born in Brixton; enlisted in Camberwell; lived in Brixton
Porter’s three-year Army career was a series of appointments and promotions. Before he had even left England, on 29 May 1915 he was appointed acting Bombardier and within two weeks he was promoted to Bombardier; in less than a month he was made a Corporal. On 29 April 1916 he proceeded to France. There, on 15 August 1916, he reverted to Gunner at his own request, but by November he was again acting Bombardier. Less than two months later he was a paid Bombardier. By September 1917 he had reverted to acting Bombardier, immediately becoming a paid Corporal, but by March 1918 he was an acting Serjeant, and then confirmed in this rank. In April 1918 he was wounded, but managed to remain on duty. Five months later he was killed in action.
What was the reason for so many promotions? Was Porter stepping into the breach left by the death of his fellow soldiers? The records do not say. Heavy batteries, however, attracted a lot of attention from the enemy. The attrition rate was high.
Porter’s Army service started when he was 24. On 12 May 1915 he signed up at Camberwell. The form shows that he opted to allot sixpence a day from his pay for his family – just as well because his wife, Daisy Porter (nee Kennett), was pregnant with their first and only child. It is likely that Porter was able to see his baby, Iris Georgina Porter, who was born in November 1915, as he did not leave England until April the following year.
Porter, blue-eyed with brown hair and a fresh complexion, was 5 feet 8¼ inches tall – a good height for the time – and weighed 138 pounds (getting on for 10 stone). His chest was 35 inches, which he could increase by 2 inches. His physical development was judged “fair”.
George and Daisy Porter lived at 66 Kellett Road, Daisy and Iris later moved to 61 Hinton Road, Herne Hill. From that address she sent a pained note to the Army:
“Dear Sir,” she wrote on 2 January 1919, “Could you inform me the reason why my late husband George Hand Porter No. 290873. 126 Heavy Battery R.G.A.’s effects have not been sent to me as it is nearly four months since he was killed.”
These effects, when they reached her (“Effects sent” is written across the letter) included: two wallets, photos, calendar, metal mirror, watch, pen, guard and chain, collapsible cup, pocket knife, scissors, gold ring, rosary, cap badge, belt, match box cover, whistle, safety razor and case, cap badge, belt, tobacco pouch, cigarette case, celluloid whistle, letters, spectacles in case, magnifying class and three lenses, five compasses, watch protector, razor strap, newspaper cuttings, fob watch, chevrons, brass crown. These objects together speak of a careful, sensitive man used to close work, ideal for work in copperplate engraving.
Information from the 1911 census
Before he married in 1914, George Hand Porter lived with his family at 111 Loughborough Road, Brixton. His widowed mother Martha Porter, 55, was from Walworth. There were four children: George, then 19 and working as a copperplate engraver; John Porter, 24, a machine minder (L.P); Fred Porter, 23, a corrector of the press; Henrietta Porter, 16, a dressmaker. All were born in Lambeth. The 1901 census shows that George’s father, “J. Porter,” was a printer.