The Men from Hyde – John Barrow Dunmill

John Barrow Dunmill was born in Maidstone on 17th May 1885, the only surviving son of Alfred Thomas Dunmill, a banker’s clerk, and Mary Elizabeth (nee Copping) who had married at Marylebone in August 1884.

In the next 5 years, Mary Elizabeth had another 3 children: Maud Mary (1886), Irene Cornwallis (1889), and Alfred Julian, who died shortly after birth in 1890.

John Barrow Dunmill and his parents cannot be found in the 1891 census but his father Alfred Thomas appears in the electoral registers for Sevenoaks in 1892 and in 1896-99 for Tonbridge.  The only member of the family found in 1891 is Maud Mary who is staying with her grandfather, John Copping (60), a police inspector of weights and measures in Huntingdonshire.

The archives of Watford Grammar School contain an application on behalf of John Barrow Dunmill on 25th April 1899, when John was almost 14 years old. The address given is 4, Loates Lane, Watford, Hertfordshire, and his father is A T Dunmill, Bank official.

In the 1901 census, the family is still at 4, Loates Lane, Watford.  Alfred is 42 and a banker’s clerk; his wife Mary is 44. Their three children are John B (15), Maud M (14), and Irene C (12), all born in Maidstone. They have a live-in servant.

In the 1911 census, the family is living at 96, Breakspears Road, Brockley (Deptford/Greenwich).  Alfred is 52 and now a bank manager.  Mary Elizabeth is 55 and states that she has been married for 26 years and has had 4 children, one of whom has died. With them are John (25, now a bank clerk), Maud (24), and Irene (22).

The following year, John Barrow Dunmill married Maggie Roberts at Paddington.  The next year, his sister Irene married Edward Curry in Luton.

John enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1917 in Winchester; the address of his next of kin, his wife Maggie, is ‘St Clement’s’, Hyde Street.  John enlisted as a gunner with the service number 163556.

John then served in France as a Bombardier with the 110th Siege Battery of the RGA.  The Heavy Batteries of the RGA were equipped with heavy guns, sending large calibre high explosive shells in fairly flat trajectory fire. The usual armaments were 60 pounder guns.  As British artillery tactics developed, the Heavy Batteries were most often employed in destroying or neutralising the enemy artillery, as well as putting destructive fire down on strongpoints, dumps, store, roads and railways behind enemy lines.


A Heavy Battery of the RGA tows its 60-pounder guns along the roads of Northern France.

According to the Winchester War Register, John was Killed in Action on 2nd February 1918.  The circumstances of his death are not known as there are no surviving army records, but it was shortly before The First Battles of the Somme.  He was 32 years old.

John was buried at Tincourt New British Cemetery, between Cambrai and Saint-Quentin, on the Somme.  The inscription on his headstone reads: ‘Loving and Beloved Alike in Life and Death’.

At that time, Tincourt was a centre for Casualty Clearing Stations. The cemetery was used until September 1919.  After the Armistice it was used for the reburial of soldiers found on the battlefield, or those buried in small French or German cemeteries.  There are now nearly 2,000 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site.

John’s father, Alfred Thomas, lived to the age of 75, dying in Luton in 1933. His mother Mary Elizabeth died in 1940 in Surrey, aged 84.

His wife Maggie remained in Winchester and can be found here in the 1939 Register.  She died in 1972 at the age of 91.  She had no children.

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