40088 Pte Harry Dean South Staffordshire Regiment
Born 8 October 1883 in Stone, Staffordshire
Lived in Greyfriars, Bellasis St and Sandra Rd, Stafford & India Died of wounds 9 September 1917 aged 33 in France
Buried in Bois-Guillaume Communal Cemetery Ext, A.25.A
Harry Dean was the eldest child of Richard Dean, a butcher, and Emma Harper, who were married at St Leonard’s church, Marston, Staffordshire on 15 October 1883. Harry was baptised at Christ Church, Stafford on 28 December. He was to be the first of 13 children born to Richard and Emma, eleven of whom survived to adulthood.
By the time the 1891 census was taken, the family, now with three children at home, was living at 35 Grey Friars, with a boarder supplementing the family income. The two children who died in infancy had both been born and died before that first family census return. Ten years later, Richard described himself as a journeyman butcher, and the family lived at 11 Bellasis Street, Stafford. Being a journeyman meant that Richard had completed his apprenticeship, but was not yet considered a master butcher. Harry worked as a clicker in the shoe trade, as did his younger brother, Richard. Being a clicker involved cutting the components for the upper part of boots or shoes. This would not only include the leather, but also the linings, facings, stiffeners and reinforcements for eyelets. It was a skilled job, requiring the clicker to get as many uppers as possible from the leather whilst avoiding the thin or damaged areas and to obtain as good a colour match as possible for each pair.
Harry must not have seen the life of a boot and shoe clicker as his role in life, because on 20 February 1903 he presented himself at the recruiting office in Lichfield and joined 3rd (Militia) Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment. He gave his occupation as Groom, so had already had one change of job since the 1901 census. He had been living with the family at 8 Sandra Road, Stafford when he enlisted and after his medical examination was described as 5’1¾” tall and weighing 116 pounds. He had a fair complexion with grey eyes and light brown hair. After being given his first service number of 6356, he was sent for musketry training in July and August of 1903. On 4 March 1904, he moved from the Depot battalion (3rd), to 1st Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment (one of the two regular battalions) with the new service number 7442. Harry was still serving as a private with the 1st Battalion in Peshawar, North West Frontier Province, India.
He stayed in the 1st Battalion without a break, apart from leave, into the War. On leave in England it seems he met Lottie Emery and married her in Stafford in early 1913. Lottie and Harry had a daughter, Nellie Frances on 12 June 1914. Harry was on the front line early in the war – his medal index card tells us that he disembarked in France in September 1914, when he was still with the North Staffordshire Regiment. When he transferred to the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment he was issued with his final service number, 40088; this seems to have been around December 1915. The battalion had suffered heavy losses in the first battle of Ypres, and the war diary of 1st Battalion South Staffordshire reports that it was reinforced by a draft of 350 men on 1 January 1916; it is likely that one of these men was Harry.
Through 1916 the battalion was in action at the Battles of the Somme, Delville Wood, Guillemont and the operations on the Ancre.
In 1917 they fought during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the flanking operations round Bullecourt during the Arras offensive. Harry must have lost many comrades and wondered what would become of himself, his young wife and infant daughter.
Reading the war diary, it is clear that there was a lot of pride in the regiment, though it must be considered whether the men fighting in the trenches felt quite the same way as the Lieut. Colonel who wrote this entry in the war diary after heavy losses in battle: ‘Of the gallantry and undying devotion to duty displayed by officers, NCOs and men, it is impossible to write fully in these pages. Suffice it to say that they have added a most glorious and ever memorable page to the history of their grand old regiment, and when we who, by the mercy of providence, are still alive, look on the colours of the 1st Battalion (38th) South Staffordshire Regt. thickly crowded with the manes of great victories won in the past two hundred years – we can feel that the most memorable and glorious incident of our lives has been the fact that we were permitted to fight side by side with our comrades in the 1st Bn. South Staffordshire Regiment – a regiment of immortal fame and with an unsurpassed record of glorious achievements.’
In the summer of 1917, 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment was part of the 7th Division of the 91st Infantry Brigade. At the beginning of September the men were in billets near Les Trois Rois, training throughout the month, with no reported casualties until an air raid on 30 of the month. It is likely, then that Harry received his injuries in August of 1917.
The only casualties noted in the war diary for August are 2 men wounded in the trenches near St Ledger on 3 August and 1 man wounded on 4 August in the same area. Presumably Harry was one of these three men. If that was the case, then he must have spent over a month in the system of casualty clearing station and hospital care before he succumbed to his wounds.
It would have been an uncomfortable and traumatic route to get Harry to hospital – after being retrieved from the field he would most likely have been taken to a casualty clearing station and eventually by train or ambulance to the hospital where died. You can tell from the photograph that conditions left a lot to be desired!
Harry is buried in the extension of Bois-Guillaume Communal Cemetery, which was begun in 1917, where most of the burials came from No.8 General Hospital, which was quartered at Bois-Guillaume in a large country house and grounds. It seems likely that this hospital, near Rouen, is where Harry died.
For his service to his country, Harry Dean earned the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, which would have been sent to his widow, Lottie. His war gratuity payment was sent to Lottie on 27 June 1919. Lottie remarried in 1920, and had two sons, Harry and Thomas Bromley before she died in 1927 at the age of 36. Harry’s father died in 1929 and his mother died in 1937. In 1939 Harry’s daughter, Nellie, was still living in Stafford, and working as a laundress. She married Henry Mills in 1940, and went on to have a son and five daughters. Nellie died in 1992.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Jane Jones for permission to use her image of wounded being loaded onto a train ww1photos.com