Half length photo of a young man in army uniform (no hat)

Henry John Dewey (29 December 1896 – 10 February 1917†)

Henry John Dewey (Lives profile) was the second son of Edward Dewey, himself a ringer at Reigate (and also steeplekeeper at Redhill), and Sarah Ann Sully. In some ringing reports Henry is recorded as Harry, so that may have been how he was generally known.

Edward and Sarah Ann had married at Reigate parish church on 15 October 1892. The Reigate ringers made an attempt to ring a peal to mark the occasion, but it failed, so they had to content themselves with a quarter peal instead. Edward is shown on the wedding certificate as a 35-year-old labourer, residing New Park, Reigate, the son of John Dewey, also a labourer. Sarah Ann was 34 (born Taunton, Somerset), no rank or profession is shown, residing Nutfield. Her father was Henry Sully, who is recorded as having been a gentleman. In 1891 Edward was living with his parents, John and Harriett, and brother James. All the men were brickmaker’s labourers, and the family were living in Brickyard Cottage, Earlswood, all had been born in Reigate. Sarah Ann, despite the claim of her father’s gentility, is recorded as a domestic servant living above stables in Meadvale, Reigate. Reviewing censuses suggests he may have been the Henry Sully born abt 1818 in Taunton who by 1891 was giving his occupation as “retired deputy governor, Taunton Gaol”, in 1861 he is listed as “Chief Turnkey, Taunton Gaol”.

Their first child Edward Frechville Dewey (the middle name appears a few different ways, Frechville, Frecheville, Freschville) was born on 28 September 1893 and baptised at Reigate parish church on 3 November 1893 (there doesn’t seem to have been any particular ringing on that occasion). Henry John was born on 29 December 1896 and baptised at St John’s Redhill on 7 February 1897. It was later that year that, sadly, Edward Frechville Dewey died. He was buried in Reigate churchyard on 3 June, I’ve not established the exact date of death, probably in late May. The burial record seems to be the first time the family were recorded living on Earlswood Road.

In 1901 the family were living at 52 Earlswood Road, Redhill. Henry was now 3, his father Edward seems to have moved up the ladder slightly, now being recorded as a brickmaker, rather than brickmaker’s labourer. The family also had a lodger, George Pattenden (19), a plate layer (on the railway).

Edward continued to ring at Reigate, although he had been appointed steeplekeeper at Redhill around the time Henry was born. He also rang frequently at many other towers in the local area. The Redhill ringers rang to mark the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 and had a photo taken to record the occasion. A copy was sent to me by Christine Johnson after she found my post on the Streeter brothers.

Five men standing and three seated, all wearing suits, and several with flowers in their lapels. They are arranged in front of a church doorway.

The ringers at St John’s, Redhill, when they rang to mark the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 9 August 1902. Edward Dewey is named as steeplekeeper, and is probably the man seated in the middle of the front row. The man at the right of the back row marked “My grandad” is William Streeter (father of the Streeter brothers). Photo courtesy of his great-daughter Christine Johnson

Perhaps it was because Henry was left as an only child that he and his father seem to have been close. Edward took Henry ringing from when Henry was only 10 (in 1907), very early for those days. It probably helped that Edward appears from the photo to have been quite a big man, with Henry probably taking after him. Having learnt to handle a bell so young, Henry moved on to change ringing at 12. He rang in his first 120 of Grandsire Triples on 5 January 1909 at Nutfield. Just under a fortnight later he rang a 504 of Grandsire Triples at Horley on 17 January.

He soon extended his repertoire to Plain Bob, ringing his first touch of Bob Minor at Charlwood on 4 April 1909. He rang his first quarter peal, ringing the treble to Grandsire Triples (with his father on the third), at Pulborough, Sussex, on 9 May 1909. They were both elected life members of the Sussex County Association at a meeting 19 June.

On 22 August 1909 father and son were at Crawley ringing for the Sunday services there. He rang his first 720 of Bob Minor at Charlwood on 26 September 1909, followed only two days later with another at Nutfield (again on the treble) with W Tassell, C Matthews, W Cheesman, E Snelling and F Hawkins (conductor). This was reported in the local newspaper due to his youth. His Ringing World obituary records his totals for 1909 as: “Grandsire Doubles, 600 changes; Grandsire Triples, 8346; Plain Bob Minor; 1,920; total, 10,866. These changes were rung at twelve different towers.”

1910 continued in similar vein, Henry rang his first touch of Kent Treble Bob on 12 April 1910 at Nutfield. Just five days later he managed his first peal, on the treble to Grandsire Triples at Billingshurst. On Monday 13 June he was ringing touches of Grandsire Triples at Reigate, without his father, but with H Ewins and G and H Hoad, who are also listed on the roll of honour. Again at Reigate, on 11 September he rang his first course of Grandsire Caters.

Less is reported in 1911, although the year started with father and son being elected members of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths on 21 January during a meeting at St Martin-in-the-Fields. 5 April 1911 was census night, the family are now recorded at 74 Earlswood (this may actually have been the same house as 1901, just the houses renumbered). Edward was now 53 and still a brickmaker, Sarah Ann was 52, Henry was 14, but has no occupation given. The family now had two boarders, William Bilelifts, a widower of 77, formerly a general labourer but now “past work”, the second was Edwin William Pithin (21, born Tattenhoe, Bucks) and engine cleaner for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.

The year finished with a peal of Grandsire Triples at Reigate on Boxing Day, 26 December (his obit suggests this was 26 December 1912, rather than 1911, but the contemporary reports give the 1911 date, and I cannot find any trace of one on the same day in 1912).

His obituary says he was then unable to ring for over a year due to work commitments (unfortunately it doesn’t say what his job was). The re-dating of the Boxing Day peal to 1911 suggests the period was actually more like 10 months. Despite the gap he seems to have come straight back into the swing of it with his fist peal on ten bells, Plain Bob Royal, at Reigate on 1 October. *Harry Dewey Treble, Arthur Holman 2, Henry F Ewins 3, *Oscar Gilbey 4, Albert Harman 5, Walter Claydon 6, George H Croucher 7, Thomas Sparks 8, Henry A Hoad 9, George F Hoad Tenor. Composed and Conducted by George F Hoad, *First peal on ten bells. First peal by the Southern Branch of the above Association. This seems to be the first time his ringing is actually credited to the Surrey Association. Harman and the two Hoads are also named on the roll of honour.

On Sunday 6 October 1912 Dewey rang two quarter peals at Isleworth for Harvest Festival services, the treble to Grandsire Triples in both cases. From this time he is often ringing in this area (as well as at home), so it’s possible his job was actually around there. He marked his 16th birthday on 29 December 1912 by ringing his first quarter peal on an inside bell, the third to Grandsire Triples at Crawley. Oliver Sippetts, another man named on the roll of honour, was also ringing.

He followed this with a quarter of Grandsre Triples at Horley on 5 January. Then a peal of Bob Royal at Reigate on 27 January 1912 (back on the treble), the band also included Henry F Ewins, the two Hoads and Harman. On 12 May he rang his first peal of Double Norwich Court Major on 12 May 1913 (Whit Monday). This would prove to be his final peal.

There was less ringing in 1914 with just a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at Isleworth on Sunday 28 June, his father and Oliver Sippetts both joining the loal ringers too, and in Barnes on 13 December he rang the 6th to a quarter of Stedman Triples.

Between those two he had made his first attempt to enlist, he joined the Grenadier Guards on 6 September 1914 at Caxton Hall. However he was discharged at Caterham after just 10 days’ service on 15 September as “being unlikely to become an efficient soldier”. The Guards maintained high standards even in war time. His occupation is recorded on his service record for this brief service, but is not very clear, either sutler, or duster. The record does also give us his height 5’11″m with a 37″ chest, fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. He claimed to be 18 years and 9 months old when he enlisted, in fact he was 17 years and 9 months.

1915 begins with ringing the 7th to a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at St Mary’s Acton for evening service on Sunday 24 January. He was back at Isleworth on 7 February for another quarter of Grandsire Triples rung for an afternoon men’s service.

He was back home in Reigate on 13 March. Rona Ince, a nurse employed by the Reigate Education Committee was cycling along Earlswood Road. She attempted to overtake a timber wagon belonging to the firm of Stenning and Son, but misjudged it and clipped to wagon’s back wheel. Falling as a result, the wheel then went over her right hand. Dewey seems to have been one of the first on the scene, along with a naval surgeon who happened to be passing. Surgeon Probationer J A Stirling DSC RNVR praised Dewey say he, “showed useful knowledge in the way he arrested hemorrhage[sic]”. Stirling was the son of James Stirling, Chiref Constable of Grimsby and was visiting James Metcalfe, Head Constable of Reigate. Stirling had been Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross following his actions aboard HMS Meteor which sank SMS Blucher during the Battle of Dogger Bank in January 1915. The report also states that Dewey was a Boy Scout, which was where he had learnt his first aid skills

Soon after he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, perhaps the praise he received for his first aid helped him to get over the probable disappointment arising from his rejection by the Guards? The Ringing World of 7 May 1915 reports that he was serving with the RAMC at Aldershot. His medal card shows that he went to France on 20 July 1915. During his service on the Western Front he was twice evacuated back to England. In a letter published in the Ringing World on 7 July 1916 he writes to W Lawrence of Ealing “It is now more than eighteen months ago since we met, when I spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon and evening with you at Ealing. I have been out to France twice, and was sent home wounded each time; the first was a bayonet wound in the arm, and also the effects of being caught by a shell; but I recovered, and was sent to the front again; and, at Loos whilst being in a dugout a shell came and buried me, and I unconscious for nearly a week. I am pleased to say I am in the best of health now.”

By the time of the letter he was serving at Tinge Military Hospital on Malta. His obituary tells us that the last time he rang was at Manchester Cathedral in July 1916, this seems a little difficult to reconcile with the fact that from Malta he was posted to India, perhaps there is another error with the date and the Manchester ringing was actually in July 1915, before he first went to France?

Exactly when he went to India isn’t known, but the Ringing World of 19 January 1917 records that he had sent a donation of 2/6 to the fund established to fund the casting of a new tenor bell for Kingscliffe in Northamptonshire. His address at that time was given as Colaba War Hospital, Bombay.

By 10 February he had travelled some distance inland to Secunderabad, and was stationed as an orderly in a convalescent camp there. The local ladies’ war relief committee had arranged an entertainment for the troops. At about 6pm Dewey was in a rowing boat on the Hussain Sagar, a lake quite close to the centre of Secunderabad. The men in the boat were all in high spirits, singing as they rowed back to shore. As they got close to the shore Dewey, for some reason, stood up, and then fell into the water. One of the other men in the boat, named in a letter sent to Dewey’s parents by a chaplain as Private Dande, immediately dived in after him. Dande had as an 11-year-old saved another child from drowning in the Usk, so was evidently a strong swimmer, but he was defeated by the very weedy water, coming close to drowning himself. I have not been able to identify Dande, the only medal cards in that name are for two Gurkhas, which does not seem to fit. Possibly it’s a mistranscription of Dando or some similar name, but there are too many too pick from, and I’ve not traced any newspaper reports of the Usk rescue which might help to confirm his name.

Dewey’s body was recovered the following day, and he received a funeral with full military honours on 12 February, with a large congregation in attendance, including his commanding officer Colonel Way (probably Lewis Way, a pre-war regular in the RAMC). Dewey was buried in Bolarum Cavalry Barracks Cemetery. This is now once again where he is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, though for many years he was listed on the Kirkee Memorial as CWGC were unable to care for the various cemeteries in old military cantonments around India.

Obituaries were published in the Ringing World and the local newspaper. These tell us that he had been a member of Salford’s Troop of Boy Scouts, and had paraded with them at Windsor before the King. In addition to the Surrey and Sussex Associations, and the Cumberlands, Dewey was also a member of the Middlesex and Bath and Wells ringing associations (it’s not clear how he ended up in the Bath and Wells, possibly he was posted in that area during his RAMC service).

On 9 April 1917 there was a muffled quarter peal in his memory at Crawley. Shortly after that Edward Dewey donated a new set of eight bell ropes to Crawley in Henry’s memory. There are many war memorial bells in the world, but I suspect this is the only set of memorial bell ropes! Unfortunately ropes are not quite so long lasting. The first anniversary of his death was marked by quarter peals at both Crawley and Horley, with Edward Dewey taking part in that at Crawley in the morning. Dewey’s name was included in the roll of honour read at the National Ringers’ Memorial Service held at St Clement Danes on 22 February 1919. On 5 September 1920 a peal was rung at Crawley, with the footnotes specifically mentioning the earlier gift of ropes by Edward Dewey in Henry’s memory.

The centenary of his death was also marked with a quarter of Grandsire Triples at Reigate.

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One thought on “Henry John Dewey (29 December 1896 – 10 February 1917†)

  1. Pingback: Streeter family update | halfmuffled

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