Harry – the ninth

 

middlesex-regiment

 G./25577 Private Harry Dean     Middlesex Regiment

Born 1877 in Harrow

Lived at Northolt Road & 28 Sherwood Road, Harrow

Killed in action 25 March 1918 aged 41 in France

Remembered on the Pozieres Memorial, Panel 60 & 61

His story

James Dean, a plasterer from Pinner, married Ann Wotton in Pancras registration district in 1864. They were to have four sons and two daughters before James died at the age of 50 in 1886. Whilst James was alive the family lived in Northolt Road, Harrow, but after being left with children still at school Ann moved to Sherwood Road. By the time of the 1891 census Ann was working as a nurse, with the two oldest boys supplementing the family income working as a gas fitter, and a Painter. Harry was still at school at this time.

By 1901 Ann had finished work, and Harry was contributing to the household, working as a labourer. Ann’s sister, Elizabeth was also living with the family. Ten years later, Harry who worked as a bricklayer’s labourer, was the chief earner in the household, supporting his mother and aunt, both well into their seventies. It is unclear exactly when Harry enlisted in the army, because his service records haven’t survived, but from the amount of war gratuity payment he earned, it is likely that he attested in Harrow around October 1915. He was assigned the service number 25577; the prefix G indicates that he was on general service, and he was part of the 2nd Battalion Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment.

The battalion, part of the 23rd Brigade in the 8th Division, had landed at Le Havre in November 1914, so Harry would have joined them after his basic training in England. He wasn’t awarded the 1915 Star, so it seems that he disembarked in France at some point in 1916. On 1st July 1916 the battalion took part in the attack at Mash Valley near Ovillers suffering more than 650 casualties that day. They returned to the Somme in October and took part in operations near Le Transloy losing more than 230 casualties in bitter hand to hand fighting at Zenith Trench.

In 1917 the battalion was involved in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, the Battle of Pilkem and the Battle of Langemarck. In 1918 Harry survived the Battle of St Quentin, part of the German Spring Offensive, only to perish in the actions at the Somme Crossing a couple of days later.

The front line was badly fragmented and highly fluid, as the remnants of the divisions of the Fifth Army were fighting and moving in small bodies, often composed of men of different units. German units advanced irregularly and some British units ended up under French command to the south or behind enemy lines to the east, making the logistic tasks of the corps nigh impossible. A series of German attacks dislodged the exhausted British troops and gaps in the front created by this staggered withdrawal were exploited by the Germans.

By nightfall, the British had lost the line of the Somme, except for a stretch between the Omignon and the Tortille.

actions-on-the-somme
Actions on the Somme Crossing March 1918.

Harry Dean lost his life at some point on this battle. His body was never recovered, and he is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial, with over 14,000 other service men. For his service for his country Harry earned the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These, and his war gratuity payment of £11, were issued to his mother, Ann, now in her eighties. Ann died in 1924 aged 87.

 

Acknowledgements: Image of Actions of the Somme Crossings under IWM non-commercial licence © IWM (Q 10810)

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