Private Dunkerley’s Plaque

The featured image is a bronze memorial plaque from the First World War. They were given to the families of servicemen, and women, who were killed in the war. Around 1,355,000 were issued, with 600 being named to women.

We bought it in the shop a couple of years and it has been lying in the back room since then. It’s clearly had a hard life. The hole at the top with wire loop is a modification you regularly see. It’s a defacement, but at least it means that the family displayed it for a while in memory of the life it represents. There’s a nick in the edge, probably where it was dropped, and green specks in several places. Normally that is verdigris, but in this case it’s what I’ve always thought was Windsor Green paint, a traditional shade used on exterior woodwork in old cottages. On looking it up I’m not quite so sure. It may actually be Brunswick Green.

Whatever it’s called, it’s an external paint and suggests the plaque might have spent some time outside or in a shed. It won’t be the first one to have suffered like this.

The final fault is that someone has polished the bronze, so it looks bright and shiny. I’m not sure it’s an improvement. However, it’s 100 years old and it’s seen many aspects of life in that time – from a memorial to a family member, hung on a wall, to a piece of history offered for sale at a car boot sale. One of our customers saw ti and brought it to us.

Meanwhile, what of Mr Dunkerley?

Great War Memorial Plaque –  32265 Private Charles Dunkerley, Manchester Regiment

He is actually traceable because only one  Charles Dunkerley died in the war. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website has details of 46 Dunkerleys. They came from Australia, Canada and South Africa, though the majority came from the north-west of England. They are buried from the UK to the Far East.

Charles Dunkerley’s military records are still available on-line. He was a clerk, who enlisted in 1915 aged 32. He served in Mesopotamia with the Manchester Regiment, being wounded by shrapnel in the shoulder on 9th January 1917 at Kut al Amara, during the retaking of the city. It had been the scene of a humiliating defeat in 1916 and is not one of those campaigns that attracts much notice. He was treated in hospital in India and was posted to Egypt in December 1918.

He appears to have been employed as a clerk after his wounding, and is listed as Category B 2. Category B meant that he was not fit enough for General Service  but still fit enough to serve overseas on lines of communication. B2 denotes that he was able to walk 5 miles to and from work and see and hear sufficiently for ordinary purposes. To be B1 he would have had to be fit enough to march 5 miles and shoot with glasses. I’m guessing that marching involved full kit where walking was less onerous.

His parents were both dead by the time of his return, and he had one sister. The address he gave on enlistment was the same as her address, which he gave as his address when embarking on his demob leave. The journey home began in Egypt on 4th July 1919 and he went to Prees Heath (a dispersal depot which received men landing at Liverpool).  He was released on 22nd July and made his way to Manchester. He was, according to his sister, in perfect health on 25th July but complained of a pain in the head on Friday 26th. After a few days of illness he began to feel better but on Friday 1st August relapsed into unconsciousness. He was admitted to Nell Lane Military Hospital, where he died at 5.55pm on Saturday 2nd August. Cause of death was due to Acute Infective Meningitis, probably due to parasites from sandfly fever.

The 1911 census shows that he was living with his mother, Alice. I know this is her name as she was still alive in 1915 when he enlisted. His sister Martha Ann (Martha Ann Whittaker as she became on the service record) was 20 and still living at home.

In 1911 Charles was a Railway Engine Fitter’s Labourer/Student. He had obviously moved up in the world by 1915. His father died somewhere between 1891 and 1901 and he also seems to have lost both a brother and a sister between 1891 and 1919.

It’s taken me two years to write this, but there is clearly more to do. That’s the allure of working in the shop, the ability to reconstruct a story, even imperfectly. It’s not a happy story, but I like to think it was worth doing – his sacrifice merits more than just being sold at a car boot sale.



17 thoughts on “Private Dunkerley’s Plaque

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  2. Clare Pooley

    Excellent research, Simon. I am always moved when I read the histories of these ordinary men (and women) who lived in extraordinary times and did their duty unerringly. You have created a wonderful memorial for Private Dunkerley; thank-you.

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      Thank you Clare. There is so much more information o find these days. You used to have to trawl old newspapers in the library, which was not as good.

      Are you all keeping well? I have been very bad at reading blogs recently. The double whammy of cellulitis/sepsis followed by Covid about 12 months ago really knocked me back and I’ve been struggling to keep up.

      1. Clare Pooley

        As you can see by the speed with which I responded to you, I have found things a little difficult lately too. I am so sorry you are struggling; I found that the guilt from not being able to read everyone’s posts and not being able to write anything relevant was quite overwhelming me. I decided to step back from blogging temporarily despite enjoying it very much when it goes well! I have had a few health problems compounded by a camera that needs servicing/replacing (no photos) and a laptop that took half an hour to boot up (recently replaced – heaven!) My fingers have become very crooked and painful with osteo-arthritis so trying to blog/message people/take photos using my phone is virtually impossible. So far, touch wood, neither I, Richard, both my daughters, my mother and my sister (who works for the ambulance service) have had Covid (or are aware that we have had it). I am not sure how we have managed this when all around us have succumbed – my brother has had it three times. I have come to the conclusion that the only things that really matter are health (mental and physical), keeping a roof over our heads and kindness. Everything else is just padding. I hope Julia and your boys are okay and that you begin to feel better soon. I have a friend who has had Long Covid since March and she cannot even find the energy to attend the sessions meant to help her cope with it! Take care, my friend xx

      2. quercuscommunity Post author

        Good to hear that you are still about, despite the problems, and that the family is staying well.

        It’s strange how camera problems can knock you back. I’ve had the same experience and can’t settle with a phone – fortunately Julia has passed her old compact camera on to me.

        I was looking at somem photos from seven years ago (early days on the blog, and am amazed by my memories of how healthy I was at the time compared to now and how much younger we all looked, though to be fair it is 10% of a lifetime ago. Time flies! As you say – health, shelter and kindness are what matters, though I struggle with one of them. 🙂

        Stay well, and don’t be a stranger, as they say.

      3. Clare Pooley

        I hope to start blogging again after Christmas but knowing me something will happen to prevent that! I was listening to someone on the radio on Sunday who caught Covid very early in the pandemic (March 2020) and who then got long Covid. He said he has only recently felt completely well again. I think this illness takes a long time to disappear and we must be patient but also try to look after ourselves mentally as well as physically. <3

  3. jodierichelle

    That’s an incredible story, Simon. Thank you for caring to find it out and share it. To think – he made it through all of that only to get home and die. Just terrible. And his poor sister! She witnessed so many of her family die and she was just 28!

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