Pursey Frederick Short was born in Taunton on 23 September 1894. He was the son of Frederick William Short and Mary Jane Pursey. His father was a printer compositor and in 1901 the family lived in South Street. He was educated at Taunton School. In 1911, aged 16, Pursey was still living with his parents in Taunton, at 72 Alma Street, and he worked as a cardboard box maker. He had two brothers, one older and one younger.
Sometime after this he moved to Bridgwater and lived with an aunt. He was nephew of Cllr W. H. J. Masding of the town council. The Bridgwater Mercury recalled that he was greatly interested in the Boy Scout movement, being an assistant Scoutmaster.
The Mercury recorded on 17 November 1915 that Pursey had enlisted in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, having been rejected for foreign service four times previously since the outbreak of the war (De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour says five times). Pursey served aboard the French steamship, the S.S. Maine, a ship built in 1910 and 774 tons, as a signaller. There seems to have been only one other Englishman on board, an interpreter. Pursey was killed when the ship was torpedoed and sunk by German U Boat 56 in English Channel on 28 November 1917, when the Maine was travelling between Newhaven and Dieppe. There was only one survivor from the entire crew. Lieutenant Commander R C Coppock recalled that Pursey 'was a great favourite in barracks and also in his ship, and he upheld the honour of his old school both ashore and afloat'.
Pursey was remembered on his grandparent's memorial in the Wembdon Road Cemetery: 'Sacred to the Memory of Signaller Pursey F. Short R.N.V.R. killed at sea Nov 21st 1917 aged 23 years. His country's call - not in vain'. There are two other memorials to the sinking of the Maine, one on the wall of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Fort Road, Newhaven, East Sussex, the other on the harbour wall at Dieppe.