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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #116

Dear Reader,

Now available for pre-order, Damaged, Sam Smith Mystery Series book nineteen. This story is set in the South of France and deals with immigration and terrorism.

Eight and a half months pregnant. My detective agency was in good hands, Faye and Tamara’s hands, so time to put my feet up and await the Big Day. However, Gabe, my private eye friend from Boston, had other ideas.

Hired by Alexander Carmichael III the current head of a powerful Boston dynasty, Gabe was on the trail of Chelsea, Carmichael’s runway daughter. That trail led to Wales – hence my involvement – then on to the South of France.

Amongst the glitz and glamour of the South of France events took a murderous turn – someone was making and detonating bombs, and that someone had developed a close association with Chelsea.

We found ourselves in a race against time, to prevent an explosion and the loss of many innocent lives, and to return home to deliver my baby.

Read this from the top to the bottom then from the bottom to the top.

My latest translation, The Olive Tree: Branches, in Portuguese.

My ancestor Robert Dent was born on 17 July 1882 in London to Richard Dent and Sarah Ann Cottrell. As a child, Richard emigrated to Ontario, Canada only to return to London in his early twenties where he married Sarah Ann. He found employment at London Docks and on the ships that sailed into those docks. In 1883 his ship, Stadacona, foundered with all hands. You can read Richard’s story here https://hannah-howe.com/ancestry/dent-yorkshire-canada-london/dent-yorkshire-canada-london-4/

In the early 1900s Richard’s son, Robert, followed his sister, Eliza, to Ontario, Canada. On 17 November 1909 in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, Robert married Edith Eugenia Mollett, a woman of French descent. Between 1910 and 1914 the couple produced three daughters: Caroline (named after Edith’s mother), Edith and Jessie. Then the First World War broke out.

Given their British and French backgrounds, Robert and Edith must have discussed the war and its unfolding events in some detail and those discussions led to Robert enlisting in the Royal Canadian Dragoons (1st Armoured Regiment) on 21 January 1916.

Most of what follows was recorded in Robert’s official war record.

Robert Dent’s attestation paper

At the time of his marriage to Edith, Robert was a railway assistant. He was still working on the railways when his daughter Caroline was born. Remarkably, we know the exact time of her birth: 8.40 pm on 20 September 1910. When Robert signed up he was a farmer. In common with the vast majority of men who signed up he had no military experience.

Robert’s personal details. Height: five foot five and three-quarter inches. Weight: 135 lbs. Girth: 37 inches when resting, 41 inches when expanded. Complexion: fair. Eyes: grey. Hair: light brown. He had no smallpox scars, but his skin did reveal four vaccination marks. His habits were considered ‘good.’ On 21 January 1916 the medical officer considered Robert ‘fit for active service.’

After training, Robert left Halifax, Canada on 15 August 1916. By ship he arrived in Liverpool, England on 24 August 1916 and was transferred to the 11th Reserves Battalion at Shorecliffe. On 27 October 1916 he was transferred to the 8th Battalion to serve overseas. 

The 8th Battalion was authorized on 10 August 1914 and embarked for Britain on 1 October 1914. It disembarked in France on 13 February 1915, where it fought as part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war. The battalion was disbanded on 15 September 1920. During the Great War the battalion saw action on a number of key battlefields including Ypres, Passchendaele and the Somme.

A page from Robert’s military file

Robert’s war record reveals that he was ‘accidentally slightly wounded’ on 7 February 1917. These ‘slight’ wounds included gunshots to the right knee, thigh, leg, forearm and face, and they necessitated a thirty-two day stay at Clapton Military Hospital, from 3 March 1917 to 4 April 1917. 

How did Robert sustain his wounds? It would appear that he was present in a brigade bombing area, attending a bombing instructional course. The safely at the course must have been lax resulting in a accident. Robert’s medical record states that he sustained ‘gunshot wounds’ and not ‘shrapnel wounds’ so maybe he was hit by bullets during the exercise and not shrapnel from an exploding bomb.

On 4 April 1917 medics moved Robert to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital in Bromley, Kent, where he remained until 17 April 1917 when he was discharged with limited movement in his right knee.

Robert’s disability was of ‘a serious nature’ and would ‘interfere with his future efficiency as a soldier.’ On 27 July 1917 he made a will, leaving all his worldly possessions to his wife, Edith. Then, despite his injuries, he returned to the frontline.

Back on the frontline, Robert suffered from trench foot, a common malady during the First World War. On 13 December 1917 he was transferred to the Canadian General Hospital in Shorecliffe where he remained until 12 March 1918, forty-eight days. During his stay surgeons removed his toenails.

A case of trench foot from the Great War, 1917

Despite his injuries, Robert survived the Great War. However, he then faced another twist of fate.

From February 1918 mankind had been engaged in another ‘war’, against the ‘Spanish Flu.’ While in England waiting to return to his family in Canada, Robert became ill. On 15 January 1919 he was admitted to the Mile End Military Hospital. A week later, on 21 January 1919, he died.

Trooper Robert Dent, service number 225554, survived the horrors of the Great War only to succumb to an unseen enemy. This suggests an irony and tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. However, this was no play; it was life, and death. Edith lost her husband. In return she received a gratuity of $180, her husband’s life valued at £4,000 in today’s money.

Robert Dent’s final resting place, Brookwood Cemetery.
Image: Find a Grave.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #114

Dear Reader,

A lovely message from my local library this week. Apparently, my books are ‘proving popular’ with borrowers and the library would like to acquire more copies. We will send them a parcel of my books, free of charge. ‘Libraries gave us power.’ Support your local library!

Eve at #1 and another lovely review. “Great read! Can’t wait to read the next episode! I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about the resistance, spy and wartime.”

Many thanks to everyone who supports my books.

My article about SOE agent Pearl Witherington appears in the August issue of the Seaside News. Pearl is probably my favourite SOE agent, although all were truly remarkable.

A remarkable discovery. A writer in the family. On 24 December 1716 my direct ancestor William Axe, the son of a clergyman, boarded the St George bound for the Cape in Africa. He was one of four writers who joined the crew and the ‘Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading with Africa.’ 

The Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading with Africa, later known as the Royal African Company, was founded by the British royal family in 1660. It shipped more African slaves to the Americas than any other company in the history of the Atlantic Slave Trade. I wonder if William Axe wrote about that. More research required.

In the spring of 1846 my 4 x great grandparents Thomas Thompson Dent Jr and Dorothy Hornsby set sail for New York bound for Canada. They arrived in New York on 24 June 1846 then with their five children, William, Thomas, Elizabeth, Richard and Henry, and baby Dorothy, travelled north where they established a farm in Ontario, Canada. Why did they make such a hazardous journey with the risk of disrupting their stable lives?

As the eldest son of Thomas Thompson Dent Sr, Thomas Jr stood to inherit much of his land – Thomas Sr owned at least four farms in Bowes, Yorkshire, and the surrounding area. Did father and son fall out, or did Thomas Jr reckon that the prospects for his family were better served in Canada? When Thomas Sr died in 1854 he made no mention of Thomas Jr in his will, so the migration to Canada appears to have severed all ties within that branch of my family. That said, passenger lists indicate that Thomas Jr did travel to Britain then back to Canada in 1871. Although travel was slower in the Victorian era our ancestors were often more mobile than we sometimes realise.

In 1846 Thomas and his family made their initial journey by steerage, the cheapest form of maritime travel. Their ship, the Rappahanock, sailed from Liverpool with 453 passengers. Travelling by steerage, one imagines that their journey was a challenging one.

The Pays d’en Haut region of New France, 1755, an area that included most of Ontario.

In the 1840s, Canada was a young developing country. The Canadian government were looking for settlers to farm the land and they made generous offers to entice people to settle. In Britain, orphans were often sent to Canada to work the land. Many of them stayed and you could argue that they faced better prospects in the fields of Canada than in the slums of a city like London.

Between 1815 and 1850, Over 960,000 people arrived in Canada from Britain. The new arrivals included refugees escaping the Great Irish Famine as well as people from Scotland displaced by the Highland Clearances. Infectious diseases killed between 25 and 33 percent of Europeans who immigrated to Canada before 1891.

The 1840s in particular saw heavy waves of immigration into Ontario. During this decade the population of Canada West more than doubled. As a result, for the first time, the English-speaking population of Canada West surpassed the French-speaking population of Canada East, tilting the representative balance of power.

An economic upturn followed in the 1850s, which coincided with an expansion of the railway system across the province. The economic situation improved further with the repeal of the Corn Laws and trade agreements with the United States. As a result, the timber trade, mining and alcohol distilling boomed. Farmers too benefited from this good fortune.

Halton County, Ontario, 1821, home to the Dent family from 1846.

In Ontario, Thomas and Dorothy had two more children: Mary and Robert. In 1851 Thomas and his family were farming in Halton County. All their immediate neighbours – farmers, shoemakers, carpenters and a clergyman – came from either England or Ireland.

Ten years later, in 1861, Thomas and Dorothy were living in a two storey farmhouse built of brick. They were prospering. However, as we have seen, life in Canada could be a struggle with a battle against infectious diseases and within two years two of their daughters, Mary and Dorothy, died.

By 1871 the family had dispersed with sons and daughters marrying. Thomas and Dorothy worked their farm with the assistance of their son, eighteenth year old Robert. Presumably, they hired servants for seasonal tasks. However, at the time of the 1871 census none of those servants lived on the farm.

Thomas died in 1876, aged 69, of typhoid. He was buried in St Stephen’s Anglican Cemetery, Hornby, Halton County, Ontario. 

By 1881 Robert was running the farm. Dorothy was seventy at this point and still going strong. However, she died in 1888 and was buried in the family plot at St Stephen’s Anglican Cemetery, Hornby, Halton County, Ontario. 

As for Thomas and Dorothy’s children: William Dent married Margaret Featherstone. They raised a family and ran a farm in Halton, Ontario. Henry Hornsby Dent married Mary Ann Gilley. He also raised a family and ran a farm in Halton, Ontario. By 1911 he regarded himself as a Canadian. Robert married Augusta Tuck. He also considered himself a Canadian and farmed in Halton, Ontario. For this branch of the family the transfer of allegiance from Yorkshire to Canada was complete.

Of the daughters, only Elizabeth survived into adulthood. On 30 October 1861 in Halton, Ontario she married Henry Gastle, a farmer originally from England. The couple produced eight sons, pictured, c1880.

In all of this, what happened to my 3 x great grandfather Richard Dent? In the 1860s he decided that a farmers life in Canada was not for him and returned to Britain. More about Richard next time.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 31 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian. https://authors.thefussylibrarian.com/?ref=goylake

Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂