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War Memorials

In Memory of
Lance Corporal 20773
2nd Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment
Who died on Saturday, 8th October 1916
Age 21

No Known Grave. Pier & Face 14A & 14B
Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", France1

Harry Dewey was born in Beeston in 1895 2, the only son and eldest child of Gilbert Joseph (b. c1868, Beeston) and Clara Dewey (b. 1871, Leicester, née Foister). In 1901, the family was living at what was then 54 High, Beeston (later renumbered as 88 High Road) where Gilbert was trading as a butcher3. In 1906, for some reason, Gilbert left for Canada where he found work as a butcher. In 1911, Clara was still living at was now 88 High Road, Beeston, now with three children, and had taken over the running of the butchers business with the assistance of the 16-year-old Harry4.

When war came in August, 1914, Harry was amongst the first to enlist, signing up on 7 September 1914, initially with the Corp of Hussars of the Line. But, by early 1915, it was clear that, what had become a trench war, needed infantry rather that cavalry and, in June 1915, he was transferred to the York & Lancaster Regiment and joined 2nd Battalion, part of 16th Brigade of 6th Division. The battalion was then in the Hooge area of Flanders, and Private Dewey became part of a group of 20 reinforcements that arrived on 21 July 1915, just two days after the Hooge crater had been detonated. On 7 August 1915, he was attached, apparently on a temporary basis, to the 8th Entrenching Battalion5.

By the middle of July 1916 the battalion had moved to Ypres and were in action at nearby Railway Wood. Elsewhere, on the Somme, of course, the major offensive was on-going and there had been major setbacks and losses there. Early in August, the battalion was part of reinforcements that were provided, seeing action around Beaumont Hamel. From mid-September, the battalion took part in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, notable for the first use of tanks. This battle achieved a breakthrough from the High Wood and Delville Wood obstacles but the flatter terrain beyond and the wetter autumnal weather presented new difficulties when the battalion was part of the Battle of Morval which followed in late September. By the time of its involvement in the Battle of le Transloy in the first half of October, conditions on the battlefield were terrible with mud, cold and flooding combining to create conditions which tested human endurance to the limit6. On October 2nd, Private Dewey was promoted to unpaid Lance Corporal. In the course of this battle, over the next sixteen days, the battalion took heavy casualties. Lance Corporal Dewey was one of those killed in action on 8th October7.

Lance Corporal Dewey's body was never found and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, which now stands adjacent to the Leipzig Redoubt. The Thiepval War Memorial to the Missing was unveiled on the 1st August 1932 by the then Prince of Wales and is the largest British War Memorial in the world. Standing 150 feet high, it dominates the surrounding area. The memorial stands on a concrete raft 10ft thick, built 19ft below the ground, the solution to the problems of building over the warren of tunnels that formed the German second line. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens the memorial has sixteen masonry piers, where can be found, on the panel faces, the names of some 72,000 British and 830 South African soldiers who died and have no known grave, during the period starting in July 1915, when the British Third Army took over from the French, through the Somme battles of 1916, until 20th March 1918, the eve of the last great German offensive on the Somme. The focal point of the memorial is the Stone of Remembrance, which lies under the great arch and centrally between the piers, for which Rudyard Kipling chose a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, "There name liveth forevermore".

The shock at home must have been profound. Now on her own, with two daughters, with a butcher's business to keep going and the son that she had relied on when her husband left, now never to return, must have been overwhelming. Harry's finance effects of 3 3s 7d, paid to her as the sole legatee under his "Soldier's Will" in February 1917 and his war gratuity of 9 paid in October 19198, would have supplied some financial support but, inevitably, what was required was day-to-day help in the business. And, despite everything, she was to continue to run the business until her death in 1932. Any expectation that her husband would return from Canada was dashed when he died of heart disease, aged 49, in June 1917 in Toronto9. She was however, able to gather assistance from the family. Her younger brother, Herbert Foister (1880-1960), had married Mabel Barker and they had settled in Beeston. where Herbert worked as a butcher's assistant by 191110, presumably with Clara and Harry at the shop on the High Road. While Herbert eventually opened his own butcher's shop on Queens Road, Beeston11, by then Clara was getting help from her eldest daughter, Evelyn, and son-in-law, Francis Wilfred English, who had married Evelyn in 1920. The Beeston business was to be continued by the English family after Clara's death12.

Lance Corporal Dewey was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal13. In addition to his entry on the war memorial panels in Beeston Parish Church, he is remembered on his mother's memorial stone in Beeston Cemetery14.

1The photograph of the Thiepval Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was recorded in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q1 1895 (Ref 7b 234). His age was recorded as 19 yrs 242 days on 7 Sep 1914 when he enlisted (Army Service Record). This points to a birth date of about 6 January 1895.
His siblings were Evelyn Eleanor (b. 1899) and Dora (b. 1903)
3Beeston, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 110
4Beeston, 1911 Census, Piece 20431 RD429 SD3 ED6 Schedule 205
5Personal details of Harry's military service are from his Army Service Record. Details of 2nd Battalion in the early stages of the war are based on its Wikipedia entry at /en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_Battalion,_York_and_Lancaster_Regiment.
6The account of 2nd Battalion's involvement on the Somme in July to October 1916 is derived from its war diary and from accounts of the individual battles at www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battles/battles-of-the-western-front-in-france-and-flanders/the-battles-of-the-somme-1916.
7Harry's promotion to unpaid Lance Corporal is recorded in his Army Service Record. It is not reflected in his otherwise comprehensive record in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission record. It looks likely that his family never knew of this promotion.
8Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com
9Gilbert died in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on 19 June 1917 (Ontario, Canada Deaths Register - on ancestry.com). He appears to have arrived in 1906 and was in Montreal in February 1907 (US Border Crossings from Canada, in transit) and was lodging at an address in Toronto at the time of the 1911 census, while working as a butcher(1911 Canada Census - Toronto South, District 127, SD9, Ward 2).
10Beeston, 1911 Census, Piece 20431 RD429 SD3 ED6 Schedule 152 - 11 Clifton Street
11H Foister is recorded as trading as a butcher at 126 Queens Road, Beeston in 1941 (Kellys Directory).
12Francis Wilfred English and Evelyn Eleanor Dewey married in Q4 1920 (Basford Registration District, Ref 7b 577). They and their son Harry (1921-1990) were living and trading as butchers at 88 High Road, Beeston at the time of the 1939 Registration. "H English" - presumably Harry - is recorded there in a 1952 street directory, still trading as "Dewey's". By 1958, he was no longer at that address.
13Harry's medal awards are recorded in the Medal Rolls and Medal Card, available on ancestry.com. His medal card confirms his embarkation date as 21 July 1915.
14The inscription on Clara's gravestone in Beeston Cemetery records her "Only son, killed in action 8 October 8th 1916, aged 21 - Reunited". Her father, Charles Foister, who died in Beeston in 1919, is buried with her. The gravestone can be seen here.

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