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  • Claire Jordan

"Reunited with Dad"

When 26 year old career soldier Colour Sgt Major Thomas Denton, Royal Artillery, married 16 year old Catherine Walsh in the British military garrison at Morar, Gwalior, Bengal as 1880 turned into 1881, he’d already been a Gunner for six years, and out in India for three.

He would be there, now with Catherine, for another seven years.

Although (tantalisingly) his papers do not give it a description, at some point in his early years of soldiering, he acquired a tattoo on his right arm, something it’s quite hard to imagine, looking at this splendid portrait of him as Victorian patriarch at the heart of the family he would create with Catherine.

The couple waited to start their family until they were back in Cornwall, and then proceeded to have five strong sons, and finally little Nellie who looks pretty unimpressed with the bow stuck in her hair for the occasion.

When middle son George, here standing in the shadows on the right of the picture next to his Mum , grew up, he joined the Royal Artillery like his Dad.

He was a keen sportsman, and even boxed for his Regiment; ge was a dedicated soldier and quickly promoted.

When War came, Dad was long discharged to pension, but 20 yr old George was out in France with his 53rd Brigade Royal Field Artillery from the start.

On 5th September in 1915, Sergeant George Denton was busy with the usual attritional duelling of field guns with the enemy at Annequin just east of Bethune, when a stray shell found his C Battery 18 pounder.

This was always the bit that made being an Artillery field gunner so dangerous and the Gunners so brave - the moment you fired, the enemy would have a good idea of your position and could answer in kind, with accuracy.

The shell took with it George and three of his gun team, two lads from Teesside: 21 year old Robbie McCarrick and 27 year old Oscar Featherstone, and also veteran 39 year old Londoner Bill Ferguson.

They are buried together in a row in the churchyard extension at Cambrin.

In the spring of 1917, George’s now 63 year old Dad Thomas, perhaps exhausted by an earlier decade of soldiering under the Indian sun and the loss of his son George, died at home in Penzance.

Catherine made sure that George, buried far away across the Channel, was remembered on his Dad’s headstone, but when the time came for the family to chose an epitaph for George’s Cambrin #CWGC headstone after the War, it was left to eldest brother Tom to provide the words.

He put simply: “Reunited with Dad.”

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