Harold Dennis (1894-7 November 1916†)

Harold Dennis (Lives profile) was another son of a ringer at Redhill, like the Streeter brothers. Harold was born in Farningham, Swanley, Kent in mid-1894, the second child of Edward Dennis and Susan Martha (neé Cousal). They had married at All Saints, Wandsworth on 24 January 1891 when both were living at 57 Cambourn (or Camborne) Road. He was 30 and a gardener and she was 26. They were still living at the same address when the census was taken at the end of March. The census shows that Edward was originally from Leigh in Surrey, while Susan was from Reading, Berkshire.

By the time that their first child was born in the first half of 1892 they had moved to Farningham, Swanley, Kent. The birth of Mabel Emily Dennis was registered in the Dartford registration district in the second quarter of 1892. Harold’s birth was also registered in that district in the third quarter of 1894.

The family then moved to Redhill before the birth (or at least the baptism) of Edith Dennis. She was baptised at St John’s Redhill on 6 December 1896, with the baptismal record noting that she was born on 17 September 1896. Edward is still recorded as a gardener. She was followed by Charles Edward Dennis on 4 February 1900 (baptised 15 April 1900). At the 1901 census the family were living at 11 Carter’s Row Cottages. The family was completed with the arrival of Herbert Dennis on 21 January 1903 (baptised 5 April 1903).

The family were still at 11 Carter’s Row Cottages at the 1911 census. Harold had now followed his father into work as a gardener. Mabel Emily had left the family home and was boarding at 10 Elm Road, East Sheen, and working as a teacher at a church elementary school. The rest of the children were still at school.

Edward features quite frequently in ringing reports from Redhill. Harold was elected to the Surrey Association on 24 July 1914, so had probably been ringing for a little while before that. In 1915 he rang the treble to two quarter peals of Grandsire Triples at Redhill. In the first the band was joined by Pte C A Hughes, a London ringing serving with 17th Battalion (County of London), London Regiment, then stationed nearby, but about to leave the district. In the second they were bolstered by F W Bailey, one of the Bailey brothers of Leiston, Suffolk, very well-known ringers, who was serving with 9th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment.

The amount of war gratuity paid out after Harold’s death indicates that he joined up around June 1915. The Ringing World of 9 July 1915 reports that he was with 3rd Battalion, The Queen’s. Army records show that he enlisted at Guildford. The battalion was then at Rochester, serving as both training unit and on home defence duties. Harold completed his training in October, and was posted to 8th Battalion in France on 13 October 1915. 8th Queen’s, along with the rest of 24th Infantry Division had suffered a real baptism of fire at Loos, with the battalion losing 439 men killed, including 12 officers, and similar (and even worse) losses in other battalions of the division. The battalion was in desperate need of reinforcements.

Harold would have been with the battalion when they suffered a German gas attack at Wulverghem in 1916, and then during the Battle of the Somme in the Battle of Delville Wood and the Battle of Guillemont. By November 1916 they had been moved back up to the old Loos battlefield, then relatively quiet. Rotating in and out of the trenches. On 7 November 1916 the war diary records “One casualty – killed – aerial dart”. These were very simple weapons, little more than steel rods, often dropped from aircraft. He was taken to the cemetery at Philosophe, Mazingarbe, for burial.

His death was recorded at the next AGM of the Surrey Association, and of course he is on the roll of honour of the Association, and the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers. The current band marked the centenary of his death with a quarter peal (appropriately of Grandsire Triples) at Redhill on Sunday 6 November 1916. They had also previously marked Albert Streeter’s death.

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