Penrith casualties: Stanley Dennison & Mark Dayson

If ‘Two more Penrith casualties’ sounds somehow dismissive, it isn’t. Quite the opposite. More than 700,000 British soldiers were killed in the First World War (the number actually varies according to the source). With numbers like that, the individuals can be ‘lost’. To the families who mourned them at the time, they were not ‘just two more Penrith casualties’. They were sons, brothers, friends…

21 Penrith casualties

I have been going though the 21 names listed on Penrith Congregational Church’s memorial tablet to ‘the men of this church who fell in the Great War’.

As well as being linked by the church, there have been other connections: neighbours, brothers, circumstances of death…

The two who feature today aren’t exactly linked, but do have in common that they were the first-born sons of single mothers.

That in itself isn’t something of comment: it’s just mildly helpful when dividing the war victims up into posts. Sadly, there isn’t a great deal of information on either of them.

Mark Ellwood Dayson

Why Mark Ellwood Dayson transferred from the Border Regiment to the North Staffordshire Regiment (8th Battalion) is a puzzle. He joined the Territorials in 1909, while working as mason for William Forrester, and while living in Drovers Lane, Penrith.

And went so far as to have a Border badge tattoo on his right forearm.

Mark Dayson, Cumbrian Characters, First World War, Beacon Edge Cemetery, Penrith
Mark Dayson’s grave is one of a number of war graves in Beacon Edge Cemetery, Penrith

Mark Dayson had blue eyes and mid-brown hair, saw service in India in 1914, including seeing action in Burma’s Kachin Hills. His war record was examplary. 

Rewind to 1891, and Mark Dayson was the illigitimate baby of Frances Dayson. He spent census night at Edenhall school house, listed as a servant child, aged under 1 month, with general domestic servant mother Frances, and her mother Elizabeth Dayson, ‘visitor’.

In 1911, he was 20 in 1911 and living with mother (who was by now) Frances Barker, stepfather Wiliam James Barker (stonemason and their six living (of 8 born) children. 

Mark Dayson died in the Auxilliary Hospital, Liverpool, on October 7, 1918. Like another of the memorial plaque men, William Mounsey (yet to be covered)

he is buried at Beacon Edge Cemetery, Penrith. He was 26, and any family member wishing to learn more could order a copy of his death certificate.

Stanley Dennison

Stanley Dennison was also born to a single mother, though you wouldn’t think so from the records:

Sapper DENNISON, STANLEY

Service Number 33037

Died 25/05/1918

Aged 23

59th Field Coy. 

Royal Engineers

Son of John and Henrietta Dennison, of Penrith, Cumberland.

The Field Company of the Royal Engineers provided technical skill and know-how in support of the fighting units. The 59th were allocated to the 5th Division of the British Expeditionary Force. Anyone interested can download some of the history from the National Archives for £3.50 here.

1911 has a Stanley, 16, apprentice grocer, at Newlands Terrace, Penrith, with his widowed ‘mother’ Jane. He has a ‘sister’ Henrietta Dennison, 35.

The Army’s effects lists say Jane was in fact his grandmother (and sole legatee) and he was killed in action in France.

He was christened on 21/6/1895 in Kendal to single mother Henrietta Dennison. On the 1901 census, she as a domestic servant in Bolton, Lancashire, working for a solicitor and his family. Stanley, aged five, was with his grandparents John and Jane Dennison, in Penrith.

In 1913, Stanley Dennison, aged 18, grocer, sailed from Liverpool on the White Star ship Baltic, with a view to settling in Canada. If it was the same Stanley (‘grocer’ being a match, as well as his age), maybe it explains why his place of enlistment was Liverpool.

‘Unknown’ Penrith casualties

If there is little on these two men who are commemorated on the memorial, I regret I have even less on some of the others.

Tom Shepherd, Bertie Watson, Albert Robson, William Jeffery, Harold Scott, Tom Richardson, George Stephenson.

For instance, there is a Bertie Watson of Askham on the casualties list, but he was a Methodist. And his and all the other names are simply too common to trace for certain. Tragically, there are 31 Tom/Thomas/T Shepherds on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s roll.