1924 - 2016
Dennis was born in Essex in 1924,
the third son. His father was a wine and champagne importer. His mother an accomplished
He was educated at The Guild of Coopers’ School in London. The family holidayed at Cromer, in Norfolk, where Dennis sat and talked with, and listened to the legendary life-boat coxswain, Henry Blogs; a man who had been awarded three gold, and four silver medals for gallantry by the RNLI, having saved over eight hundred people. This man greatly influenced him. Dennis played rugby, soccer and hockey in winter, cricket and tennis in the summer. He, also, went to a gym learning self-defence and boxing. Whilst at school he showed a particular interest in the woodwork and carpentry lessons ( which proved to be a of great usefulness in his adult life)
At the age of seventeen, he enlisted for the Royal Navy, under the Y Scheme, going to HMS Collingwood at Havant, and then for five months to the Victoria Barracks in Dartmouth, as an ordinary seaman, spending six months on the lower deck. He went on training for Combined Operations, in Scotland; which he has described ‘ As being a bit of a shocker!’
In October 1942, he was assigned
to The Durban Castle, a former passenger ship, which now had small landing craft
on board for landing troops on beaches. They sailed for the north coast of Africa
with three hundred Americans on board, part of a large convoy. This was known
as Operation Torch, destination Oran.
In November 1942, he was transferred to HMS Misoa, carrying eighty tanks for delivery at Phillipville, near Algiers. This did eight such trips.
The next move was to HMS Alfred for training for a commission. Now a Midshipman, and having indicated his interest in Motor Torpedo Boats, he was delighted when he was assigned to the Coastal Forces Training Base at HMS Christopher, at Fort William. This led to becoming the Navigator on MTB 629, of the 55th Flotilla of twelve MTBs operating up and down the east coast of Britain.
In April 1944, they set off for Portsmouth where they began to patrol the French coast between Cherbourg and Le Havre until the night of the 5th of June, 1944, they were ordered to escort the minesweepers clearing the lanes for the D Day Landings. Their stern was damaged when another MTB took a hit, and careered into them. They managed to return to Portsmouth, constantly baling out. They were repaired and returned to Normandy.( During this time he and Daphne managed to get married !)
A while later, Dennis was informed that he would be the First Lieutenant on a new MTB being built at Shoreham, no.776; upon its completion they worked –up off Holyhead, then going around to Great Yarmouth, from which they set off for more ‘bangers’ off the Dutch coast.
On the 14th of February, 1945, his
MTB was one of the thirty-one boats moored in Ostend harbour. Fuel had escaped
causing a massive explosion which destroyed twelve boats, killed sixty-two people,
and in particular, their MTB 776, and its Navigator and Telegraphist. ( Red
roses are not in Dennis’s mind on February 14th ! )
His next MTB was of a new class, and its number was 5010. Dennis was promoted to Lieutenant, and made Number 1 of MTB 5010. They operated again out of Great Yarmouth and Ostend. The war was nearly over.
After VE Day In May 1945, he was ‘ paid off’ at Dartmouth, and went on a Fighter Direction Course for Aircraft Carriers, doing duty on a carrier where they were experimenting on shortening the length of deck for take-off. He was offered a permanent commission, but decided to return to pursue his ambition to become a farmer.
He worked for two or three different farmers, then in 1949, with a wife and two little daughters, he realised he needed to get some qualifications. He went to Harper Adams College in Shropshire, and obtained both his College Diploma in Agriculture and National Diploma in Agriculture.
Times were hard, and not having sufficient
funds to buy a farm here, and with the guidance of a former employer, Dennis
and his family went to Zimbabwe where he was to be the manager of a farm owned
by the former employer’s son.
Eventually, they bought their first farm, and Dennis became a very successful and innovative business man/ farmer, growing tobacco, tea and coffee as well as other commodities, building his own houses, schools, and farm buildings. He learnt to fly, so that he could travel safely between his farms during the ‘ troubles’.
In 1984, they decided to leave Zimbabwe and return to England. Having built a 47ft ketch, and transported it overland to Capetown for fitting-out, they sailed to the UK. They settled in Lympstone, but, sadly Daphne died of cancer in 1997.
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