25979 Private Harry Dean Norfolk Regiment
Born 1888 in Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Lived at Booker; Marlow and 185 Queen’s Road, Watford
Killed in action 18 October 1916 aged 28 in France & Flanders
Remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier & Face 1c & 1d
Harry Dean was registered as Harry Willoughby Dean. He was the fifth child of William Dean and Ellen Turner, who had married in Wycombe in 1875. William was a chain maker. In 1881 William had become a farm bailiff, living at Walters Ash, in the Hughenden area of Wycombe. Ten years later, when the next census was taken, William was still working as a farm bailiff, and the family had moved to Grove Farm in Booker. Harry was three years old at this time, and the family had three boarders to help eke out the family income.
By 1901 William had changed occupations and had become a farmer, employing his own workforce. The family had moved to Mundy Dean in Marlow and Harry was working on the farm with his father. The 1911 census shows William and Ellen at Little Marlow Road, Great Marlow. William was still farming, but Harry had moved on and was working as a shop assistant in a grocer’s. He was boarding with the Mead family, in Queens Road, Watford. On 13 September 1912 Harry married his landlady’s daughter, Mabel Anne Mead, known as May, at the Congregational Church, Watford.
Harry and May lived at 70 Wellington Road, Wealdstone, in the borough of Harrow. He carried on working as a grocer’s assistant, and on 11 December 1915, aged 27 years and 9 months, Harry presented himself at the recruitment office in Harrow. This was before conscription began, indicating that Harry enlisted voluntarily. He was put in reserve and went for his army medical on 24 May 1916. He was 5’6” tall and weighed 130 pounds and his physical development described as good. He was approved for general service, given the service number 25974 and was approved to join the 3rd Battalion Norfolk regiment on 29 May. After initial training in England, he embarked at Folkestone on 6 September for Boulogne.
At some point in the next few weeks Harry moved to 9th Battalion. Reviewing the war diary of that battalion it seems likely that he was one of the draft of 94 men who joined them on the evening of 22 September. The battalion marched to camp on 1 October, near the Bray-Albert Road, remaining there for a week before marching to another camp just south of Montauban for a week of Company Parades, working parties and reconnoitering.
On 16 October the battalion moved up to the line and took over the front held by the 18th Infantry Brigade. On the following day in the trenches they were subject to very heavy bombardment but suffered few casualties. At 3.40 the following morning the battalion launched an attack managing to occupy part of the trench they were attacking.
This was to be the day that marked the end of the Battle of Transloy, a period of fighting in terrible weather; the heavy, clinging Somme mud and the freezing, flooded battlefield became as much an enemy as the Germans.
There is no further description of the day’s activities in the battalion war diary, other than casualty lists. 239 other ranks were reported as casualties, one of those must have been Harry Dean.
Harry was regarded as missing, presumed dead on or since 18 October 1916, place not known. His body has never been found and he is remembered along with over 72,000 others on the Thiepval Memorial.
Harry Dean was 28 when he died.
Harry and May’s daughter, Ivy Florence was born on 23 January 1917. May was awarded an army pension of 18/6 to support herself and Ivy.
For his service he earned the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These would have been issued to May along with his war gratuity payment of £3. May didn’t remarry, and in 1939 she was still living in Watford. Her daughter Ivy married Horace Batchelor in Watford in 1948 and had a daughter of her own in 1950.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Colin McKenzie of ozanne.co.uk for use of the image of winter in the Somme 1916