6th East Kent Regiment (The Buffs)
Synopsis of Life and Military Service
William Alfred Harden Dennett was born in late 1888 in Bexhill, Sussex and was the son of George William and Alice Dennett.
William went to school at St Barnabas’s Boys School and later underwent teacher training there passing his preliminary Examination for the Elementary School Teachers Certificate (generally known as the King’s Scholarship Examination) in 1908. He then studied for two years at Culham College, Oxford and was subsequently appointed as assistant master at St Leonards School, Hythe. He was a keen footballer and under his tutelage the school team won the District Challenge Cup four years running.
While he was at St Leonards he was asked to take over the position of Scoutmaster of the 1st Hythe Troop which numbered at around 24 boys, but by 1914 he had increased the strength to around 90.
William was also a Freemason, being initiated at Prince Edwin’s Lodge, Hythe on 19 May 1913.
William enlisted on 26 August 1914 in Canterbury, Kent having previously spent two years in the territorial arm of the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. His records state that he was Church of England and give a description which state:
- Height – 5’ 6 ½ “
- Chest – when extended: 36”
- Complexion – Medium
- Eyes – Blue
- Hair – Light Brown
It’s believed that William had been offered a commission but declined it as he wanted to get to the Front straight away. The battalion sailed to Boulogne from Folkestone on the South Eastern and Chatham Railway ferry “The Queen” on 1 June 1915. ‘The Queen’ had been in service as a ferry since 1907 and in 1914 had evacuated refugees from Ostend and had also rescued over 2,000 people from the French ship, Admiral Ganteaume which had been torpedoed.
William and his Regiment arrived in Boulogne just before 1am in the morning of 2 June and made their way to Ostrohove Rest Camp, subsequently moving on to Bailleul on 6 June where they were put into billets. It was here they started to learn the skills needed for life in the trenches, such as attending a demonstration on how to deal with gas attacks. By 20 June they were at Armentieres where they began to get familiar with the trenches.
The Regimental diary for 22 June states:
“A Coy marched off for 24 hours in the trenches with the 2nd Gloucester Regiment and D Coy for 24 hours with 1st Royal Scots. Sgt Dennett accidentally killed, strength now 30 Officers, and 970 other ranks. B and C Coys returned from trenches. Weather fine, sunny and warm with west wind.”
A friend of William’s, Sgt H Gibson, wrote to William’s mother about his death:
“It is with the deepest regret I have to inform you of the death of your son. He was wounded by a bomb (grenade) on the 22nd June, and died the same night. The whole of his Platoon regret his loss, and more especially myself, who enlisted with him, and we have been chums ever since.
I always admired and envied his abilities as a soldier, and his one regret when wounded was that he had not had an opportunity to do more for his country.
We buried him to-day in a little churchyard and his Platoon Officer and the whole of his platoon were present. We have planted his grave with some rose trees and box trees and the lady of the billet where we billeted kindly offered to look after his grave. We also had a wooden cross made for the head of his grave, with his name and Regiment on.
If there are any other particulars you would like to have, I should be only too pleased to send you them – Yours in deepest sympathy, H Gibson, Sergeant, 6th Buffs, B.E.F”
William is buried in the Erquinghem-Lys Churchyard Extension, Erquinghem-Lys, Department du Nord.
The following family information has been ascertained :-
- Father – George William Dennett, born c.1855 at Sedlescomb, Sussex, d. c.1935.
- Mother – Alice Dear or Dennett, born c.1864 at Woolston, Hampshire, d. c.1945.
- Sister – Ethel L., born c.1888 at Bexhill, Sussex.
- Brother – Bernard George, born 26 November 1890 at Bexhill, Sussex, d.1975.
- Sister – Agnes A., born c.1893 at Bexhill, Sussex.
- Brother – George Archibald, born c.1894 at Bexhill, Sussex, d.11 January 1945.
- Brother – Harold Stonsadge, born c.1898 at Bexhill, Sussex, died c.1948.
- Brother – Frederick, born c.1903 at Bexhill, Sussex.
Records show that William lived at the following addresses :-
- 1891 – Willow Cottage, Alma Road, St Mary Extra, South Stoneham, Hampshire.
- 1901 – 50 Windsor Rd, Bexhill, Sussex.
- 1914 – 30 Ormonde Rd, Hythe, Sussex.
William is remembered on the following Memorials:
- The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) – First World War Book of Remembrance, Canterbury, Kent.
- Roll of Honour (Staff), St Leonards Church of England Primary School, Hythe.
- Hythe War Memorial.
- Hythe Boy Scouts Memorial.
Links to Additional Information
- Lives of the First World War – William Alfred Harden Dennett.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – William Alfred Harden Dennett.
- A Street Near You – William Alfred Harden Dennett.
- Find A Grave – William Alfred Harden Dennett.
- 1891 England, Wales and Scotland Census.
- 1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census.
- Bexhill on Sea Observer 18 July 1908.
- Find My Past: WO 363: British Army Service Records.
- National Archives WO 95/1860: War Diary of 6th Battalion East Kent Regiment.
- England and Wales, National Probate Calendar.
- Ancestry.Co.UK: United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership Registers, 1751-1921.
- Bexhill on Sea Observer 3 July 1915.
- Bexhill on Sea Observer 14 May 1921.
- Lives of the First World War website.
- Trevor Torkington