The involvement of my family members within the armed services and the emergency services.

This page currently provides information on:-

1. Gordon Frank Dewey, Royal Air Force, WWII

My father, Gordon Frank Dewey (known as Don) served during WW2 in the RAF from 1941 to 1946; an annotated transcript of his hand written Service Record is:-

" 4.8.41- Euston Reserve": Aged 17 years 4 months. According to my uncle Malcolm, my father lied about his age, was found out, and rejected!

"26.5.42 - 3 Rc": Recruit Centre at Padgate, Lancs. Now aged 18 years 1 month
"2.6.42 - 10 (S) RC": Signals Recruit Centre, based in Blackpool

"24.9.42 - 2 Sig Sch": Signals School at Yatesbury, Wilts
"42 OTU": Operational Training Unit at Ashbourne, Derbyshire
"10 2 RS": Radio School, redesignation of 2 Signals School at Yatesbury
"21.4.43 - 21 RS": Another Radio School?
"15.7.43 - 8 AGS": Air Gunnery School, at Everton, 15 miles N. of Inverness
"4.8.43 - Admitted to Raigmore Hospital": From wiki, this hospital consisted of temporary single storey wartime wards built in 1941 at Inverness.
"18.8.43 - Discharged, DoR": Discharged on request, presumably wanted to complete his Air Gunner training!
"19.10.43 - 7 AOS": Air Observers School in Canada or at Bishops Court on the SE Coast of N Ireland about 8 miles S of Strangford Lough.
"11.1.44 - 19 OTU": Operational Training Unit, about 20 miles NE of Inverness, included navigation with on-board aircraft training on Hansons.
"26.4.44 - 41 Base, 4 Grp Battle": 41 Base is a part of 4 Group, and it was based at Marston Moor, near York.
"4.5.44 - 1663 E.U.": Equipment Unit ?
"18.6.44 - 102 Sqdn": Based at Pocklington, 20 miles E of York. From wiki, 102 Squadron were equipped with Whitley V's from Nov 39 to Feb 42; Halifax; Mark II, Dec 41 - May 44; III from May44 to Feb 45; VI from Feb 45 to Sep 45.
"26.2.45 - ACAC Cattal": Aircrew Allocation Centre near York
"2.9.46 - Release": Demobbed.

My uncle Malcolm told me that my father was on an aircraft that ditched into the North sea, spent 3 days in a rubber dingy before being washed up on the coast; as a result, he caught pneumonia and ended up spending 2 weeks in hospital. In the meantime, my grandparents had received the official telegram "missing believed dead"! The above record shows on 15.7.1943 he was posted to 8 AGS, a couple of weeks before going into hospital, both near Inverness. Presumably, he was on a live gun firing training exercise over the sea when the aircraft developed a problem and had to ditch in the sea. Due to the demand for aircraft on active service duty the ones AGS used were not the best; so not too surprising that they had poor reliability.

My father's active (as opposed to training) service was with 102 Squadron from 18 June 1944 (12 days after D-Day) through to 26 February 1945. Two days before he joined 102 Squadron, there was a sortie:- "16.6.1944 attack on Sterkrade, 23a/c, 5 lost", losing 5 aircraft out of 23 on one sortie is a scary welcome! The gloomy outlook continued; for the whole of June, 12 a/c were lost out of typically 17-20 aircraft per sortie. So the probability (my dad was good at numbers) of surviving another month of operations was less than 50:50! The outlook seemed unlikely to improve as on the 24th June the Squadron's first ever successful daylight sortie was undertaken. My father's first sortie was on 25.6.1944 and was the Squadron's 2nd daylight mission; 18 aircraft set off, one was lost. Fortunately the situation did not worsen; in July, three aircraft were lost, and in August only one, although there were a total of 22 casualties for the month. His 40th and last sortie was on 16.1.1945, at which point the crew were "rested" after having completed a full "tour of 30 successful attacks". The same crew of 7 were on all 40 sorties, they were:-
W/O J.F.Dales PO (Dale), F/S D.A.Pawsey NAV (Dennis), SGT H. Blackshaw AB (Bert), SGT G.F.Dewey WO (Don), SGT N.K.Jones AG (Norman), SGT R.Rendell AG (Rich), SGT J.Sefton EN (Jimmy).

The detailed data from these sorties has been obtained from National Archives, Kew:- . Several 'Operations Record Book' files have been downloaded in 2020 and processed. The files are in pairs, a small file (mission summary) and a larger file (crew and a/c details). Some of the files (AIR-27-810-15 to 24) relate to 1944, Aug to Dec, other files (AIR-27-811-xx) are for 1945. A summary is:- 30 bombing, 5 mining and 5 supplying petrol sorties.

2. Frank Christy Dewey, British Army & Royal Flying Corp, WWI

My paternal grandfather, Frank Christy Dewey (1894-1961), has an unusual, possibly unique, service record. He served in the Royal Navy, the British Army, the Royal Flying Corp and the Royal Air Force. His RAF Service Record (FCD_RafService_GBM_AIR79_2763_00206) states his 'Prior Engagement' as R.N.Artificer; his 'Current Engagement' as Army, 21.1.16 and 'Date of actual entry into RAF' as 31.10.18, presumable via the RFC. This is supported by:-

  a) My uncle Malcolm told me his father served in the RFC and was also a motor cycle dispatch rider. Also, that he had served with Malcolm Campbell (who my uncle was named after), and was also involved in some way with him in car racing after the war, possibly as one of his motor mechanics. According to wiki, in 1914 Malcolm Campell "enlisted as a motorcycle dispatch rider...He was soon drafted into the Royal Flying Corps".

  b) From'FCDeweyRNRgstrSrvc1910.jpg' he was a "Boy Artificer" for a year in 1910 when he would have been about 16. Obviously it did not work out for some reason.

  c) From [RFCHstry] there is an entry showing FC Dewey as being in the RFC

  d) From [FMP], within the 'Record set British Royal Air Force, Airmen's Service Records 1912-1939' there is an entry with:- Frank Christy Dewey; Birth year 1894; Occupation Motor Mechanic; Attestation date 21 Jan 1916; Service number 319453; Archive reference AIR 79/2763

  e) The above entry also shows for 'State whether in Army, Navy or RAF', Army; 'Date of actual entry into RAF', 31.10.18; 'Prior Engagement in HM Forces', RN Artificer.

  f) From Wiki:- "The RAF was founded on 1 April 1918, towards the end of the First World War by merging the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service".

  g) From surviving National Archives records: just after the end of the war both my grandfather and Malcolm Campbell were in the "5 S of A", which I believe is the '5th School of Aeronautics'

This evidence indicates that my grandfather was in the Royal Navy in 1910, joined the army in 1916 and either directly or subsequently went into the RFC, which at that time was still part of the army, and was then transferred into the RAF in 1918.

After the war he took up employment as chauffeur to Lady Isherwood at Ragglewood House (where my father was born) in Chiselhurst, Kent. The next nearest grand house was Bonchester, where Malcolm Campbell's parents lived between 1909 and 1922; from the previous Campbell connections, it is probably not a coincidence that my grandfather was employed there. By 1927 my grandfather lived in Eltham, about 4 miles from Raggleswood, occupation "Motor Engineer of Woolwich". Later he was chauffeur to the Lord Mayor of Woolwich.




3. Norman Steel (1896 - 1972), British Army, WWI

My maternal grandfather was one of nine brothers who served during WWI, seven survived. He served in the Army (Royal Artillery) from 26.5.1915 to 31.3.1920. As has been noted by others, the designation of different units (Divisions, Brigades etc) is very confusing. However, by cross-referring the extensive information on Wiki, Long Long Trail (LLT), AH Maude's book on 47th Division and many other sources, I believe I have enough evidence to provide a reasonably accurate summary of Norman's service:-

a) His enlistment form (Territorial Force Attestation) states:- "No. 1519, Norman Steel, Corps 3/8th London FA Depot; Territorial Force for 4 years; 26.5.1915".

b) his Service Record states:- "26.5.15 FA Depot, Gunner; 24.9.15, Transferred, Unit 1/8th; Total Service 4 years 310 days; demob 31.3.20". This shows his rank as 'Gunner', i.e. he is in the Royal Artillery. My understanding is that the designations 3/8th and 1/8th indicates that he was transferred from 3/ (reserve or training) to 1/ (front line) of the 8th Brigade, indicating 4 months of training.

c) From [Wiki8Brgd] "8th London (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery... Part of 47th Division").

d) From [Maude]; App C, Order of Battle, Artillery, page 225:- Prior to March 1915, the 8th London Brigade consisted of the 21st & 22nd County of London Batteries. Also on page 225:- "8th LONDON (HOWITZER) BRIGADE (5-in), R.F.A.. Nov., 1915. The Divisional Artillery was rearmed..and the Howitzer Batteries with 4.5-in". On page 226:- "May 1916 238th BRIGADE, R.F.A. (late 8th Lon. (How.) Bde,. R.F.A.)" consisted of 4 batteries, 1 of which was:- "D/238 Battery (late 21st Coy. Of Lon.), R.F.A.". And also on page 226:- "Dec. 1916 ...238th Brigade were abolished".

e) Card for Xmas 1918 sent by Gunner N Steel, headed '47th London Divisional Artillery'; from the written message I presume the card was sent to my (yet to become) grandmother.

The outside of the card has an emblem at the top, which is a Royal Artillery cap badge, with the insignia of the 47th Division in the corners. In the middle there is an artillery scene with the name of L Beaumont Tansley in the bottom right corner. From [Maude], Preface:-

"Drawings from sketches made in the field have also been contributed by Captain L. Beaumont Tansley, M.C.", who was in 47th Division, 236 Brigade.

Around this scene there are the names & dates of 12 battles. Norman was not in France for the first, but was probably in action for most/all of the other 11. From [175Brgd] "an enlisted man could expect 10 days leave every 12 - 18 months... some men spent two years without leave". Artillery and gunners were vital resources; Norman probably did not get much leave during his 3 years of active service.

My interpretation of the above evidence is that Norman Steel enlisted into a brigade which was part of 47th Division, and was still in the 47th on demob. During his service the brigade and/or its designation may have changed. It could well be that from 1917 he was just part of Divisional Artillery, as the Xmas card implies. For at least some, possibly all, of that time he was part of a Battery using a 4.5in Howitzer.

Of the 12 battles identified on the card, I have marked on the following [Maude] Map 1 the 11 battles where Norman may have been in action. Also marked are 6 areas where the "Div. Artillery engaged separately", which he could well have also been involved in.

A summary of these 11 marked battles, with details from AH Maude & Wiki is:-

1. Loos Sep 1915:- Wiki, "1/VIII London Bde, with the eight remaining 5-inch howitzers on the front, were allotted 4800 HE rounds for the coming battle."

2. Vimy May 1916: "On 19 January 1916 the batteries of 1/VIII London Bde were re-equipped with modern 4.5-inch howitzers, for which they had been training since August." and "1/VIII London Bde became CCXXXVIII Brigade (238 Bde) on 14 May". "In the Spring of 1916 47th (2nd L) Division took over the lines facing Vimy Ridge." "47th Divisional Artillery reported 150 heavy shells an hour landing on its poorly-covered battery positions and guns being put out of action, while its own guns tried to respond to SOS calls from the infantry under attack, though most communications were cut by the box barrage. During the night the gun pits were shelled with gas" "Throughout their stay in the Vimy sector the batteries suffered heavily from German CB fire."

3. High Woods Sep 1916: "However, the tanks proved useless in the tangled tree stumps of High Wood, and the artillery could not bombard the German front line because No man's land was so narrow. Casualties among the attacking infantry were extremely heavy, but they succeeded in capturing High Wood and the gun batteries began to move up in support, crossing deeply-cratered ground. Casualties among the exposed guns and gunners took their toll".

4. Eaucourt L'Abbaye Oct 1916: "47th (2nd L) Division came back into the line... and began attacking Eaucourt L'Abbaye... finally securing the ruins on 3 October. This allowed the batteries to cross the High Wood Ridge into a small valley where they remained for the rest of the Somme fighting... By now the gun lines were crowded together in deep mud, guns sank up to their axles, and getting ammunition through was extremely difficult."

5. Messines 7-14 Jun 1917: Wiki:- "The use of field survey, gun calibration, weather data and a new and highly accurate 1:10,000 scale map, much improved artillery accuracy...surveyed advanced artillery positions, so that guns moving forward to them once the battle had begun could begin firing as soon as they arrived.... In the week before the attack, 2,230 guns and howitzers bombarded the German trenches, cut wire, destroyed strongpoints and conducted counter-battery fire against 630 German artillery pieces, using 3,561,530 shells." Maude, page 102:- "Throughout the whole operation the infantry found that our artillery fire was wonderfully accurate, and the advancing troops were able to keep within thirty yards of our creeping barrage without danger to themselves." And "On June 13th the Division was relieved... and moved back into the Westoutre area well-earned for a rest. Thus ended, for the Division, the Battle of Messines... Never before had our artillery superiority over the enemy been so great... The horses also during the whole of the summer suffered severely, gun teams and ration and ammunition wagons being frequently knocked out on the shell-swept roads at night."

6. Menin Road Sep 1917: Wiki, "...was the third British general attack of the Third Battle of Ypres in the First World War. The battle took place from 20 to 25 September 1917, in the Ypres Salient in Belgium on the Western Front."

7. Cambrai Dec 1917: From Wiki:- "The battle began at dawn, approximately 06:30 on 20 November, with a predicted bombardment by 1,003 guns on German defences, followed by smoke and a creeping barrage at 300 yd (270 m) ahead to cover the first advances."

8. Bapaume Mar 1918: From Wiki "In the late evening of 24 March, after enduring unceasing shelling, Bapaume was evacuated and then occupied by German forces on the following day... After three days the infantry was exhausted and the advance bogged down, as it became increasingly difficult to move artillery and supplies over the Somme battlefield of 1916 and the wasteland of the 1917 German retreat to the Hindenburg Line."

9. Albert Aug 1918: From

"Battle of Albert (21-23 August 1918) was the third battle by that name fought during World War I... was significant in that it was the opening push that would lead to the Second Battle of the Somme... On 22 August, the 18th (Eastern) Division took Albert ". As detailed below, Norman's brother Joseph was in the 18th Division, but had been killed 2 weeks prior. They may have been near one another in early August, but not been aware of it.

10. Combles Sep 1918: From Wiki:- "The Capture of Combles (25 September 1916) was a tactical incident that took place during the Battle of the Somme. Combles lies 30 mi (48 km) north-east of Amiens and 10 mi (16 km) east of Albert," and "During the night of 24/25 September the British-French bombardment increased and at 12:30 p.m. on 25 September a hurricane bombardment began as the infantry attacked."

11. Lille Oct 1918: From Maude:- "The great success of the Allies in France culminating in the capture of the Hindenburg Line by the Fourth Army, the capture of Damascus in the East, and the capitulation of Bulgaria showed that the end of the war was near." and "... on October 17th brigades of the 57th Division passed through our line, and were able to march straight on to Lille."

For some sort of an idea of the hell that my grandad (and many, many others) went through during WW1, the website [175Brgd] 'A Gunners Life's' is well worth reading.

Several of my grandfather's brothers also served. The Daily Express on 17.12.1915 had an article with a picture of my Great Grandmother and six of her sons, and the text:-


"The King has sent his congratulations to Mrs Steel...the proud mother of six soldier sons, all of whom have seen active service..." "We have fourteen children living", said Mrs Steel... "The remaining four boys are very keen to follow their brothers' example".

Also from the 'Kentish Times' of Friday April 3, 1934 (coming up to the 20th anniversary of the start of WW1), under the headline "Nine Served, Two Fell", the following text:-

" ...William James (30), 2nd Bat Royal West Kent, served in Dardanelles; Joseph (27) Royal West Kents, wounded at Mons; Ernest (25) London County Reg., invalided home from France; Edward (24) RFA in France; James (21) RFA in Serbia; Norman (19) RFA in France; Albert (22), Royal West Kents; Charles (16) Royal Navy (bought out); John (20) Royal West Kents. Joseph was wounded twice and later killed; James was also killed, at Salonica". Presumably the number shown in brackets after their name as '(xx)' is their age when they enlisted.

My two great uncles who died in action have memorials on the excellent (and poignant) website 'Find a Grave'; Joseph's is here:- , and James' is here:-

Some additional details:-

a) Joseph: Private 8766, 7th Battalion, Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment (RWK), wounded at Mons. From LLT on RWK:- "7th (Service) Battalion: Formed at Maidstone on 5 September 1914 as part of K2 and came under command of 55th Brigade in 18th (Eastern) Division." From Wiki on 18th Dvsn "7th Battalion transferred to 53rd Brigade Feb 1918". Also from Ancestry, 'Service Medals and Rolls':-

"British War Medal and Victory Medal... Previous Units: 1st R.W. Kent. L/8766 Pte., 7th R.W. Kent." And "1914 Star; 1st Battalion (when medal awarded); Disembarked 15.8.1914". Presuming the above evidence is accurate, it seems that Joseph was initially in 1st Battalion, around 15.8.1914, then transferred to the 7th Battalion, part of the 18th Division; and then transferred again, this time to 53rd Brigade in Feb 1918.

He was killed on 8.8.1918, the first day of the Battle of Amiens at Sailly-Laurette (one of the 'Battles of the Somme'). From LLT on Battle of Amiens, units involved:- "Fourth Army... III Corps... 18th (Eastern) Division". From Wiki, on Battle of Amiens, "was the opening phase of the Allied offensive which began on 8 August 1918, later known as the Hundred Days Offensive, that ultimately led to the end of the First World War. Allied forces advanced over 11 kilometres (7 mi) on the first day, one of the greatest advances of the war", and "In the first phase, seven divisions attacked: the British 18th (Eastern) and 58th... ", and "The British Fourth Army took 13,000 prisoners, and the French captured a further 3,000. Total German losses were estimated to be 30,000 on 8 August. The British, Australian and Canadian infantry of the Fourth Army sustained about 8,000 casualties".

b) James Steel: Gunner 82748, 100th Brigade Ammunition Col., RFA d27.4.1917, possibly on the Doiran front. From Ancestry, 'Service Medals & Rolls' "British War Medal and Victory Medal... Previous Units: R.F.A. 82748. Bdr." The image from the Rolls shows that 'Gnr' has a handwritten '?' against it, and 'Bdr' added. It would seem that James had been promoted to Bombardier. From [WikiDoiran], Battle Of Doiran 1917:- "The battle for a breakthrough in the Bulgarian positions began on 22 April and continued intermittently until 9 May 1917. The assault began with a bitter four-day artillery barrage in which the British fired about 100,000 shells...The British attacks in the next two days were defeated by constant Bulgarian fire and counter-attacks. Due to this fire the British withdrew to their initial positions on 27 April".

Doiran is about 40 miles N. of Salonica, Greece.



[Maude]: AHMaude: The 47th (London) Division, 1914-1919




4. Frederick Frank Dewey

(1864-1921): My great grandfather served in the Warminster Fire Brigade. From [Wrmnr20C], page 408, Roll of Honour, "Dewey F. 1899-". Also, on page 228, there is a photo of the fire brigade with a manual, horse drawn pump "donated by a local lady in 1887".

I believe it is probably him in the driver's seat because on his 1892 Marriage Certificate his occupation is given as 'Bus Driver', almost certainly a horse drawn bus. From other photos, I think the fireman on the right of the picture is Albert Dewey who served from 1910 to 1943 and became Captain in 1931. From information in [JMDTree], I believe Albert and Frederick are 4th cousins, once removed, although they might not have known they were related, only that they had the same surname.



[Wrmnr20C]: Warminster in the 20th Century' by C Lane & P White