Sydney William DENNIS
Eyes grey, Hair brown, Complexion fair
Sydney an Only son
Sydney, born in 1886 in Balham Surrey, was the only son of a draper and tailor, William Dennis and his wife, Elizabeth nee Jewell. William and Elizabeth also had six daughters – Ethel, Mabel Marian, Constance, Adeline, Hilda and Dorothy.
When William died in November 1903, Sydney, who was then about 17, did not follow in his father’s trade but rather trained as a butcher. At least, two of his paternal uncles (Charles Claude and John Turner Dennis) were butchers. Sydney and his family were listed as visitors at Charles Claude’s home in London on census night in 1901 and in the 1911 census Sydney is listed as a butcher’s assistant living in his uncle John Turner Dennis’ household.
To Australia and then to war
That same year on 26 May 1911, Sydney left England on board the ship Otway bound for Fremantle, Australia. He found his way to Dwellingup, just south of Perth, where he plied his trade as a master butcher until he responded to the call and enlisted in Perth in July 1915.
The local paper recorded that 21 local Dwellingup lads, including Sydney, were given a civic reception to bid them farewell before leaving Australia for the war in Europe. It is likely that many of those lads were with Sydney in the 32nd Battalion when they embarked in November 1915.
The battalion served in Egypt for some months before heading for France and the Western Front. In May, Sydney was promoted to Lance-Corporal but on 19 July 1916 he was killed in action. He was one of the first of the Dwellingup lads to give their lives for their country.
His mother was advised of his death in August and was awarded a pension. Sadly, she too died in December 1916 so that when the Germans returned Sydney’s identity disc in early 1917 it was delivered to Sydney’s youngest sister, Dorothy.
Later correspondence showed that Sydney’s name was on the German Death List dated 4 November 1916, making it likely that he was buried in the mass grave near Fromelles.
Searching for Sydney
Although Sydney was born in Balham Surrey, our search to identify him has taken us to Week St Mary in Cornwall. Both Sydney’s parents came from this Cornwall-Devon border area and this is where Sydney directed his letters home.
With six sisters it was never going to be difficult to find a donor on his mother’s side but finding a Y DNA donor was much more difficult. With no brothers, we needed to go back a further generation so we sent a letter to the local newspaper seeking help:
… trying to find a branch of the family tree with the male Y DNA that runs through the Dennis family. Week St Mary is a place where we have found one branch with several sons, who hopefully have sons down to the present day. I wonder if your readers can help?
Thomas George DINNIS married Ann Baker GUBBIN in 1886 and had six boys in Week St Mary - John, Arthur, Reginald, Walter, Cyril, Claude. We would very much like to make contacts with any descendants of these boys.
The Week St Mary editor of the local paper in fact did the heavy lifting. He was a keen genealogist and sent us many huge trees of the family where the name was sometimes spelt DINNIS and DENNIS. It was from the Dinnis Y line that he pointed us toward a potential donor who, it turned out, was most keen to help.
No identification has been made to date. We urge family to contact the Australian Army on one of the contacts listed below as more testing may be needed down the DENNIS / DINNIS lines connected to the following.
DNA is still being sought for family connections to
|Soldier||Sydney William DENNIIS 1886-1916|
|Parents||William DENNIS 1853-1903 of Devon (died London)|
|Elizabeth Broad JEWELL 1854-1916 of Cornwall (died London)|
|Paternal||Thomas DENNIS 1829-78 Cornwall and Elizabeth TURNER 1829-1917 Devon|
|Maternal||William JEWELL and Elizabeth Bernez TREATHICK|
Still searching, still remembering Sydney – the straightest and the best
In addition to V. C. Corner at Fromelles, Sydney’s name is commemorated on the Western Australian State War Memorial in King’s Park, Perth and also on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In details recorded on the Roll of Honour Circular, Sydney’s youngest sister, Mrs Dorothy Brown (nee Dennis) wrote about her brother that:
He was killed by shell while leading bombing party 19/7/16. May I just add his life was one of [the] straightest & best and he gave it willingly.
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