G.S/2721 Lance Corporal Harry Dean Royal Fusiliers
Born 1897 in Wood Green, Middlesex
Lived at 7 Dovecote Avenue and 25 Mayes Road, Wood Green Killed in action 4 July 1916 aged 19 in France
Honoured on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier & Face 8c, 9a & 16a
Harry Dean was the third child of Harry Dean and Mary Ann Elliott, who were married in Islington in 1892. Their first two children were girls; both born in Islington parish, but when the 1901 census was taken the family were living at 7 Dovecote Avenue, Wood Green. Harry (Snr.) was working as a tram driver. By 1911 Mary Ann had given birth to another daughter, and the family had moved to 25 Mayes Road. Harry’s job title had changed slightly, possibly because technology had changed his role somewhat – he was now described as an electrical tramway motor man. Ann was also working, pressing blouses and the two oldest girls both apprentices in the drapery business. Harry and his younger sister were both still at school.
Harry’s service records haven’t survived, so we have no way of knowing what his civilian job might have been – perhaps following his father into the tramway system?
From the amount of war gratuity payment that he earned, it appears that he joined the army right at the beginning of the war, when he would likely still be 16 years old. He joined the Royal Fusiliers (The City of London Regiment), enlisting at the Tottenham recruitment office and being issued with service number 2721. His medal index card shows that he first entered the theatre of war on 9 June 1915, still aged 17. This tells us that Harry must have exaggerated his age to enlist; he had to be 19 to be old enough to enter the theatre of war, so the army must have recorded his date of birth as a couple of years earlier than it actually was.
It was in March 1915 that the 2nd Battalion, as part of 86th Brigade, 29th Division, was mobilised for war and embarked for Gallipoli at Avonmouth via Alexandria and Lemnos. On 25 April they landed at Gallipoli and were engaged in action on the Gallipoli Peninsula, including four separate attempts to seize Achi Baba and the village of Kithia between April and July, but the heights remained in Turkish hands for the duration of the campaign. We know that Harry didn’t go with them straight away, he would have continued training in England, joining the battalion just a few weeks later. He disembarked after the fighting at Krithia, but would have been involved in the engagement at Achi Baba Heights.
At 5pm on 26 November it started to rain, filling the trenches with water. Then a tremendous flood swept over bringing dead animals and men into their trenches. Several men drowned and the area turned into a lake. There was a short truce as both sides were in the same predicament. By 10pm the men were in a terrible situation, the wind was bitterly cold and two men froze to death. After snow the next day the battalion was evacuated with great difficulty, as the men were hardly able to walk. The battalion remained in Gallipoli until they left for good, arriving in Alexandria on 8th Jan 1916.
The battalion landed in Marseille in March for service on the Western Front. We can see from Harry’s record on the medal roll, that his service on the Western Front dated from 22 March.
On 1 July as the British Expeditionary Force became embroiled in the Battle of the Somme, and the 2nd Battalion was in the worst part of the line when the battle opened. Beaumont Hamel, a German redoubt north of the Ancre, was the target of the 2nd Battalion’s attack. The fighting started at 5.15am and at 7.20 a huge mine was exploded. Men rushed forward with machine-guns to occupy the crater but were unable to get beyond the nearest lip.
The rest of the advance was futile because they couldn’t even reach the German wire. The men who were stuck in no-man’s land had to retreat and the rest of the battalion suffered heavy casualties: 3 officers killed and 28 wounded. The other ranks lost 490 in killed and wounded. It took 48 hours for the wounded to be cleared from the field. They were relieved on the 4th July.
One of those other ranks was Lance Corporal Harry Dean, aged 19. [His birth was registered in the last quarter of 1897, he could, in fact , have still been 18] Like so many others, his body has never been recovered and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial with thousand of comrades. For his service to his country Harry earned the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These, like his war gratuity payment, were issued to his mother, Mary Ann.
Harry’s parents continued to live in Wood Green, giving their address in 1939 as 13 Saint Michael’s Terrace.
Acknowledgements: Image of W Beach in the public domain.