DCSIMG

Students solve 30-year mystery

Students of Sir John Nelthorpe School watch as Pat Neal (front) hands over his treasured plaque to the niece of Joe Denton, Anne Cherry in front of the school memorial board as the name of Mr Denton is pointed out. EMN-140304-065222001

Students of Sir John Nelthorpe School watch as Pat Neal (front) hands over his treasured plaque to the niece of Joe Denton, Anne Cherry in front of the school memorial board as the name of Mr Denton is pointed out. EMN-140304-065222001

A 30-year-old mystery has been solved, thanks to students from a Brigg secondary school taking part in a World War 1 Centenary project.

A 30-year-old mystery has been solved, thanks to students from a Brigg secondary school taking part in a World War 1 Centenary project.

Since Brigg man Patrick Neal discovered a plaque in his garden 30 years ago he has wanted to know the story behind his find.

Through a combination of luck and teamwork, the mystery has been solved by students at the Sir John Nelthorpe School, revealing the story of one man from Brigg who made the ultimate sacrifice nearly 100 years ago.

The Death Plaque, often known as a ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ was issued to the family of every serviceman killed in the Great War and this commemorated Joseph Alec Denton.

It has now been returned to his family after a 90-year wait.

“I unearthed the death plaque in my garden where I then lived, at 6 Victoria Cottages,” said Mr Neal.

“Upon realising what I had discovered, I vowed to return it to the family one day. However, with few clues to follow, the chances looked slim.”

Having read about the school’s project to research and commemorate those from Brigg who had died serving their country in the war, he contacted the school and set them the challenge of finding Joe’s descendants.

Joe is one of the names on Brigg War Memorial and at the school memorial.

He lost his life in December 1916 and so his parents received the plaque, but it became mislaid and was thought to be gone forever.

Joe Denton was one of 26 pupils and staff from Brigg Grammar School who lost their lives in the First World War.

“We had already investigated his story and found out some of the details of his short life,” said teacher David Waite.

“When we were approached by Mr Neal it felt like our work had paid off.

“We had already been given invaluable help by John and Val Holland, whose knowledge of Brigg history is unrivalled.

“They knew the family of Joe Denton and were able to put us in touch with his niece Anne Cherry who still lives in the town.”

And Mrs Cherry said she was overjoyed to receive the plaque and delighted to meet Pat Neal to thank him personally.

“The medal was almost certainly lost in the 1920s by Joe’s father,” she said.

“He had lived at Number 1 Victoria Cottages, near Mr Neal’s old house, so it had been buried for over 60 years.”

And Mr Waite added: “The real credit is not only with the students but also with Mr Neal, who lovingly cared for this plaque for 30 years in the hope that it would reach its true owner.”

One small anomaly is Joe’s name is listed as A J Denton on Brigg War Memorial and not J A Denton as on the plaque and school memorial

Joseph Alec Denton was born in March 1897.

His father, Sergeant Denton, owned the butcher’s shop in Bridge St and the family lived next door, at number 3.

Joe attended Brigg Grammar School between 1910 and 1912, and was then accepted as an apprentice with Guy and Smith of Grimsby, a ladies and children’s outfitters.

When war broke out Joe was only 17, and too young to enlist, but on March 17, 1916 Joe volunteered for the navy.

After only 11 weeks training in seamanship and communications, he qualified as an Ordinary Telegraphist (a radio operator) and on July 22, 1916 arrived in Dover to join the coastal patrol.

In the September, he transferred to the Falmouth patrol area, serving as telegraphist on the requisitioned Hull trawler ‘St Ives’.

As well as looking out for U Boats and mines, they were called upon to help salvage the SS Keltier, damaged in a U Boat attack off the Scilly Isles.

However, on the morning of December 21, 1916 the St Ives hit a mine off the coast of St Anthony Head, Falmouth, and was lost with 10 crew.

Nine of the bodies, including Joe’s, were never recovered.

 

Comments

 
 

Back to the top of the page