F/455 Pte Harry Dean Duke of Cornwall’s Own Rgt
Born 21 August 1881 in Hawkley, Hampshire
Lived in Broad Ditch, Eames Lane, Hawkley and Fulham
Died of wounds 14 November 1916 aged 35 in Thiepval
Buried in Forceville Communal Cemetery Extension 3.D.10.
This Harry Dean, registered as Henry Dean, was the fourth child and second son of James Dean and Susan Jane Grover, who were married on 6 October 1874 in Portsea, Hampshire. The family couple began their married life in the village of Hawkley, where James had been brought up, and by 1881 James was a father of three and working as a hay binder.
Sadly James died aged just 38 in the summer of 1889, around the same time that their last child, Mabel, was born. This left Susan a single parent to eight children at the age of 35, and by 1891 she was keeping the family together by working as a beer seller, living at Broad Ditch, Eames Lane, Hawkley. Her eldest daughter, Rebecca was living elsewhere in the village, where she was working as a housemaid. Harry had been attending Hawley parish school since 15 June 1885 and was to stay there until 12 October 1894. Only baby Mabel was at home full time.
The next ten years saw a big change in the lives of Susan’s family and in 1901 they were living at 41 Danehurst Street in Fulham. Eldest daughter, Elizabeth had married, and Harry worked with his new brother in law as a grocer’s assistant. By 1911 Susan and Harry were still living in Fulham, now at 57 Bishop’s Road, along with Harry’s little sister, Clementina. Harry was working as a shop assistant in Harrods whilst Clementina was a dressmaker.
Harry was still working as a shop assistant when war broke out, having moved a couple of streets away to 4 Epple Road, Fulham. He presented himself at the recruiting office in Shepherd’s Bush on 30 January 1915, standing 5’ 4½” tall and weighing 145 pounds. Harry was accepted for service in the 17th Service Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, being given the service number F/455.
The prefix F indicates that he was serving in a Football Battalion. It had been formed in December 1914 after public opinion had changed against professional footballers continuing playing whilst their fans were serving abroad. Thirty professional footballers attested when the battalion began, and on 1 January its’ formation was announced to the general public. The footballers were allowed to return to their clubs on Saturdays during training, to take part in games, and by March 122 professional footballers had enlisted into the battalion. Harry must have felt he was in celebrity company, indeed!
Training at home lasted well into 1915; initially in Holmbury St Mary, a small Surrey village where a wing of a large house was converted into a hospital and the pool was available for the men. After a move to Clipstone Camp near Mansfield in July. where the battalion came under the command of 100th Brigade in the 33rd Division, they finished their training on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.
They were stationed at Perham Down where games were arranged against Cardiff City, Luton Town, Reading, Birmingham City, and Southampton, before disembarking at Le Havre on 15 November. After almost ten months of home-based training Harry was finally on active service overseas.
The battalion’s first death in action was on December 11. In the early months of 1916 17th Battalion, perhaps unsurprisingly, won the Division football tournament. Their first serious front line action was at Vimy Ridge in May and June, where several men were killed. On 23 July the battalion arrived at the Somme and was involved in heavy fighting at Delville Wood (27-29 July) and Guillemont (8 August). Losses were so heavy that a draft of 716 recruits was needed to bring the battalion back to strength.
On 13 November the battalion attacked the Redan Ridge near Serre. The winter weather had been appalling; weeks of rain led to many of the men sinking to their waists in mud and heavy fog reduced visibility to 30 yards. Apparently B and D Companies went over the top playing mouth organs! After fierce fighting the day’s casualties were listed as 3 officers killed, 2 wounded, 8 missing; 15 other ranks killed, 145 wounded and 133 missing. Harry Dean was one of those wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Ancre, dying of his wounds the following day.
For his service to his country Harry Dean earned the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His war gratuity payment of £8 was paid to his mother, Susan, who lived in Fulham until her death on 15 June 1930.
Thanks to tedesco57 for permission to use his image of the Harrods Food Hall.