221561 Able Seaman Harry Dean Royal Navy
Reportedly born 15 April 1887 in Lambeth, London
Lived at Grays, Essex and Military Road, Chatham
Died of wounds 26 December 1917 aged 30 in Shotley
Buried in Lambeth Cemetery, Tooting; Screen Wall H.3.717
Harry Dean’s service records tell us that he was born in Lambeth on 15 April 1887. This is difficult to prove, as there is no birth recorded in the Lambeth registration district, either for Harry, Harold or Henry Dean in 1887, and there are several possible registrations for a couple of years either side, and in neighbouring boroughs. It’s quite possible that he didn’t know his date of birth.
The first time Harry is identified on a census return is in 1901, when he is with many other boys at TS Exmouth. This was a training ship, used to train poor boys in all aspects of seamanship preparing them for a career at sea. It was moored off Grays in Essex.
This gives us an indication of the background to Harry’s family; they would have been a poor family, possibly even in the workhouse. Harry would probably have been sent to TS Exmouth by the local parish or Poor Law Union. Interestingly, the census return for 1891 shows an Alfred Dean, also from Lambeth, on the same training ship.
In 1902 (approximately aged 15) Harry was described as a Boy 2nd Class; he would have been given this rating provided that he was of good character, and fulfilled the height/weight/fitness requirements. At age 12 he had been 5’2” tall and by the time he was 18 had grown to 5’5½”. He had brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. As a Boy 2nd Class, he served aboard HMS Impregnable from July to August 1902 and HMS Lion.
Whilst serving on HMS Lion, he was promoted to Boy 1st Class, and stayed on that ship until December 1903. To achieve Boy 1st Class status he would have had to demonstrate that he was a proficient seaman and have earned at least one good conduct badge – he would have earned a pay rise with the promotion. Whilst at this rank he also served on HMS Agincourt, HMS Boscawen and HMS Wildfire. Whilst serving on HMS Wildfire, on 15 April 1905 he was promoted to Ordinary Seaman, aged about 18.
Harry remained an Ordinary Seaman for a couple of years, being promoted to Able Seaman on 26 December 1907 when he was serving on HMS Dominion. That must have been a very welcome Christmas present! He continued in his navy life, showing a street address of Military Road, Chatham when the 1911 census was taken, and when war broke out in 1914 he was aboard HMS Sutlej, which was soon assigned to the 9th Cruiser Squadron for convoy duties off the French and Iberian coasts.
During a period of leave on 26 March 1916 Harry married Olive Standen in St Mary’s church, Lambeth. He gave his father’s name as Alfod (sic), occupation Carman, deceased. It hasn’t been possible to identify Alfod (?Alfred) and it is quite possible that Harry just put what he thought he remembered of his father. Olive continued to live in London, and Harry went back to sea. On 15 June 1917 he moved to HMS Valkyrie, where he was to remain until his death.
Valkyrie Was one of a group of eight destroyers dispatched from the Harwich force to escort a convoy from the Dutch coast. She struck a mine at 10.15pm on 22 December 1917, five miles west of Maas light. Thick banks of drifting fog confused the situation but Valkyrie remained afloat and was eventually towed to safety by Sylph. At 3.15am on 23rd Torrent maneuvering to pick up men seen in the water also struck a mine, she broke in two and sank quickly, only seven men survived of the crew of one hundred and five. Harry’s service record stated that he died on 26 December 1917 in the Royal Naval Hospital, Shotley as a result of injuries received when an explosion damaged HMS Valkyrie.
Harry Dean was about 30 when he died. For his service in the Royal Navy he earned the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These would have been issued to Olive, by then living at 36 Princes Square Kennington SE11. It is unclear whether Olive remarried; she and Harry didn’t have any children.
Harry is buried in Lambeth Cemetery in Tooting, named on the Screen Wall Memorial, which commemorates those whose graves are not marked by headstones.
Acknowledgments: Image of HMS Valkyrie in the public domain.