Gallipoli, the Duckworth Oak and the Dean Brothers

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Every CWGC cemetery and memorial is full of stories of bravery, heroism and sacrifice, but each cemetery also tells its own story of the families left behind. At Redoubt Cemetery, two such stories are told, one in the form of a hundred-year-old oak tree, and the other by two Commission headstones set side by side.

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As the International Director of the CWGC my job includes representing the Commission at major international events globally which take place in our cemeteries or at our memorials. 

This includes, for the past two years, the annual Gallipoli commemorations in Turkey which consist of six events spread over 24 and 25 April, with the Turkish, French, and Commonwealth and Irish commemorations on the first day and the ANZAC, Australian and New Zealand commemorations on the second, ANZAC Day itself.

I admit to a personal as well as a professional interest in Gallipoli as my grandfather was in the Royal Navy and served as a signaller on HMS Ocean, which was sunk along with HMS Irresistible and the French battleship Bouvet on 18 March 1915 (he survived). HMS Ocean is one of the ships commemorated on the Helles memorial where the Commonwealth and Irish ceremony takes place so it is an event which has a particular connection to my family.  

In-between events I find the time to see some of the less visited cemeteries on the peninsula, accompanied by Burak our Turkey Country Manager, partly to lay small wooden crosses at the graves and memorials of relatives of colleagues and friends.

For example, our Public Engagement Coordinator in Scotland, Trish Keppie, has two relatives who rest in Gallipoli – one buried in Lancashire Landing Cemetery and the other commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial.

Last year, a friend of mine called Mike Murphy recommended a visit to our Redoubt Cemetery to see the Duckworth Oak. The story of the oak is an inspiring one. In August 1915, 2nd Lieutenant Eric Duckworth of the 1/6th Lancashire Fusiliers was killed in the south of the peninsula, near the village of Krithia. His body was never found, but in 1922 his father set out for Gallipoli carrying an oak sapling from home, which he planted near to where his son was believed to have fallen.   The sapling has grown over the intervening century into a mature oak, as seen in the photograph below. A plaque at the base explains its purpose.

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Mike and his father Tony, whose grandfather landed on V Beach with the Manchesters in early June 1915, joined me this year in visiting a few of the sites, including Redoubt where, in addition to the Oak, they pointed me towards the graves of the Dean brothers, John and Arthur, two of the many Lancashire Fusiliers buried here among a total of over 2,000 casualties of whom only 634 are identified. John and Arthur were killed on the same day and lie next to each other. One can only imagine the devastating effect on their family.

Arthur Dean

Arthur Dean

John Dean

John Dean

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Eric Duckworth and Arthur and John Dean died on 7 August 1915, along with over 40 other identified casualties in Redoubt, mainly from the Lancashire Fusiliers, and no doubt many others who could not be identified. So today, 7 August 2019, is a day to remember them all and, if you are visiting Gallipoli at any point why not visit Redoubt Cemetery and pay your respects as I, Mike and Tony did. 

Images of Arthur and John Dean courtesy of Dr Martin Purdy. Sourced from “Doing Our Bit” Moonraker Publishing.