25th County of London Cyclist Battalion
The London Regiment

 Edwin Northcote DEAN

          Edwin served firstly in the 1/25th Londons before being transferred to the 1/9th Middlesex Regt. His pension record card shows 2 dates, presumably his enlistment date of 5 Aug 1916 and his discharge date of 19 Mar 1920.
He travelled to India later that the main group (May 1916) arriving at the end of February 1917 and travelling straight to the North West Frontier.  
See his letter below describing his journey on board the H.M.S. Empress of  Britain.  
Not long after arrival he participated in the Waziristan campaign in May 1917, before transferring to the Middlesex Regt. as part of a contingent to Mesopotamia.

Edwin was born in July 1884, the youngest of 9 surviving children of Richard and Mary Sophia Dean. His father ran a baker’s shop in Perry Vale, Forest Hill, South East London, where the family lived. In 1901 he was working as the van boy in the family business and in 1911 he was listed as a Baker’s Roundsman taking bread around in a horse and cart. He joined the Army aged 32 in August 1916 along with his 39 year old brother Sidney (Army Service Corps, Royal West Kent regiment (Queens Own) G/18175 Lance Corporal, baker).
He had married in 1913 and their son Richard William Edwin Northcote Dean, known as Dick, was born in February 1917 when he was on the way to India. (see letter below) After the war he became a postman, still working for the GPO in 1939. His son trained as a printer and fought in Palestine in WW2, but sadly died of cancer aged 34 in 1951. Edwin continued to live with his wife in the house in Dulwich they had bought when they married until his death in April 1971.

Edwin Northcote Dean wrote the following letter to his wife Annie Owen Selina Saunders born 1886, known as Nance, describing his journey to India up to May 1917. She gave birth to their first child Richard William Edwin Northcote Dean on 17 February 1917, but this letter posted in May makes no mention of it.
Transcribed by his great niece Lesley Bradshaw, February 2024

May 1917
My Own Darling Wife
I am just going to write you a few of my experiences from the time I left Teignmouth on Nov 28th 1916 at 12 pm for Devonport, which we arrived at 3 am the following morning 29th embarked on HMS T Caronia, stayed two days aboard, was disembarked onto lighters, to a landing place about 5 miles up the Sound, landed and had to march about another 3 miles to Renney Camp situated right away from anywhere, over looking the sea, about 5 miles from Plymouth a grand place for a camp in the summer time.
We arrived there about 7 pm had a scramble to get our beds etc also no food had arrived, so had to go without our tea, next morning, still no food past 10 o/c before it arrived for our breakfast, could not buy any at the canteen as we had got no pay. After staying three days we were ordered to pack up to get back to the boat again, left camp at 4 am on Dec 3rd, reached the docks again after the same march etc embarked this time on HMS Empress of Britain, a much better boat, but very overcrowded, food not up to much, this time we stayed 6 days on board, then again had to pack up and leave again for Renney camp, the same routine as before, the weather very cold and frosty, this time they were a little better prepared for us during our stay this time, we had route marches, drills etc , also concerts and an occasional visit to Plymouth, I might add that during the stay here I was appointed sick Corporal, a not very thankful job.
We were here right up to Dec 24th, and for 4 or five days previous we were hoping to get some leave for Xmas, but at the last minute we were ordered back to the boat, and I can tell you that there was a rumpus over it too, but to no avail, we arrived back to the boat (Empress) about 5 pm on Dec 24th 1916, had the same quarter etc every body greatly upset not getting Xmas leave especially when we heard from the crew that we were not likely to sail for another week at least.
Xmas day arrived same old routine, no entertainment or any amusements provided for us, just the usual meals (very bad those) except they very kindly gave each man 1 orange so you can guess what a lovely Xmas we had. (If you can get John Bull dated Jan13th you will find a paragraph headed “A Transport’s Tribute (page 10) I think it was) and you will see what he thinks of it. During the time from Dec 25th and the day of starting Jan 5th/17 we had the usual deck parades and an occasional route march through Devonport , could get no letters etc which made life etc very miserable.
All of a sudden orders came for us to start, could hardly believe it, after being esses about as had been, so were greatly surprised when we slipped our mooring and steamed out of the docks at 4 pm on Jan 5th 1917, we were accompanied by the Caronia, when about 2 miles out was picked up by an escort of 1 Cruiser and 6 Destroyers (just received your parcel and long looked for letter) everything was going smoothly until we were off the Irish coast, there the sea began to get rough and fellows sea sick, myself included, at day break on Jan 6th we were joined by 6 more transports nothing out of the usual occurred the next two days, on the third 9th the escort left us, but had the HMS Shannon took us up as escort, every day the weather getting warmer. On the 13th of Jan, I am sorry to say fever broke out aboard owing to overcrowding and lack of washing accommodation, two more cases on 14th, the following day 15th our draft was isolated in the fo’castle , had a rotten time of it, no room to walk about, and cut off from all the other drafts, medical inspections, and gargle parades three times a day, myself felt alright. On Jan 16th I am sorry to say that there was 1 death (not out of our draft) the burial at sea was very solemn and impressive, the 17th saw two of our own boys down with it, just now we were getting it very hot, also some amusement watching the flying fish porpoises, sharks etc as we were nearing land.
Jan 18th we sighted land about 10 am, the coast of West Africa, great excitement I can tell you. We dropped anchor off Freetown, Sierra Leone about 2 pm, it was a lovely view along the coast mountains etc all of us hoping that we should be able to go ashore to have a look round, little thinking that we should go into camp there. The next morning Jan19th we were ordered to get ready to go ashore, great excitement patiently waiting about 8 hours when at last we got off the boat into an old barge and was towed ashore, landed at Freetown, had a march of 2 ½ miles up the mountains to the camp (Mount Aureal camp) a very hot climb, reached there just as it got dark, so could not see much of the place that day.
The following morning we were all early stir anxious to see what sort of place it was it was a fine place, grand bungalows, scenery etc but the same thing occurred as at Renny, there were not prepared for us, no food had arrived, so got no breakfast or dinner until 3 pm, had to make do with some fruit that we were able to bung off the natives.
The weather here was very hot but had nothing much to do except gargle parades, at last some bread and tea arrived so had tea and plain bread for our breakfast, dinner, tea all in one, we were not allowed to go about after dark 6.45 pm so had to keep to our huts after then, for it was not safe for us then as there were snakes, leopards etc about.
The second day was about the same but a little more food, usual parades etc.
On Sunday, Jan 21st we had a Church parage at 7 am, scorching hot. I was posted to the 6th Seaforth Highlanders as Corporal, which came very strange to be amongst strangers but still I got on with them alright.
Monday 22nd we packed up to return to the ship same old barge etc arrived on board about 1 pm. I forgot to mention that the native are very interesting, their ways etc their only clothing consisted of any old hat with a piece of coloured cloth round it, and a smile – a vey cool rig out eh!
Well we lay off the town until 4 pm on the next day 23rd when we weighed anchor and set off for our next stage to Cape Town, S Africa, was posted as Ship’s Corporal of the day a rotten job plenty to do. Jan 24th Very hot, had terrific thunder storm, splendid sight a storm at sea, 25th getting near the line, sweltering, 26th crossed the line (did you get my card I sent denoting crossing the line) great fun on board Father Neptune & court, shaving & ducking all those who had not crossed the line before Officers and men alike.
Jan 27th . still very hot, things going on as usual until 4 pm when a wireless message came that a raider was about, so we and the other boats turned back, and steamed full speed for 16 hours when all was reported safe, turned round again and went on the usual course.
29th Water began to get short, could not get any to wash with the next day 30th the same, began to feel very dirty you bet, grand day also a lovely moonlight night.
31st much cooler, sea got rougher.
Feb1st Rough Sea, lot sea sick with boat rolling etc, myself alright. Orderly Corporal again.
2nd Boxing Competitions caused some amusement aboard for a change.
3rd Very cloudy & much cooler , still rough, as new escort arrived to take us into Cape Town.
4th Much warmer sea smooth nothing unusual.
5th Land sighted Cape Town 5.30 am lovely sunrise also scenery, Table Mountain etc. arrived in dock at 4.30 pm, splendid sight to see the clouds roll off the top of Table Mountain known as the table cloth.
Feb 6th Went ashore in the afternoon, lovely town shops like London etc especially at night all lit up, picture palaces, theatres etc, mostly all white people, electric trams, a very strong wind blowing, lasts for about 3 days at a time, known as the Cape doctor for they say it blows all diseases away, it is impossible to stand when it comes round a corner myself was blown over twice.
Feb 7th Went ashore for a route march to Sea Point a fashionable part of the town, lovely place, pier swimming bath (sea water) etc the people very kind to us gave us fruit, tea, smokes etc galore, had a splendid time.
8th Again went to Sea Point had another grand day of it, in the evening went for a stroll round the town picked up a gentleman named Mr Bailey late of Brockley, London had a very pleasant evening, invited to his house to supper, a little bit like home etc very nice people Mrs B, son and daughters. Invited to tea the next day.
9th Met Mr B, went home to tea, supper, had a nice evening’s music etc.
10th Got the afternoon off, met Mr B, 2.30 went for a climb up Table Mountain 3 ½ hours good climb very interesting, picked silver leaves (which I hope you got alright) got back to tea at 7 pm, more music etc supper left 11 pm got back to the boat 12.30 after a most enjoyable outing.

11th Sun. Church parade at Sea Point 10 am. Got off 12 pm met Mr B again, went home to dinner (what a treat after the boats food in the afternoon he took me for a tram ride to Camps Bay 2 ½ miles ride up the mountain side and down the other side one of the prettiest spots of Cape Town, got back to tea 5 pm, went to Church with Mr and Mrs B & daughters after went for a walk though the Cecil Rhodes estates, grand woods, compounds of zebras, buffaloes, deers, leopard etc very interesting also grand Memorial up the mountainside, back home to supper, bid Good bye to them at 11.30 after a most enjoyable days outing.
12th Off Cape Point very rough boat rolling and pitching. Lot sea sick again on route for Durban.
14th Very foggy (?) going at last we had to stop owing to fog.
NB I forgot to mention that one of the transport which was with us, left Cape Town three days before we did (HMS Nestor) met with a nasty accident after being about a day out, she had an explosion on board reported owing to spies (?) as there are a lot at C T luckily all were saved after 2 hours in the water. Another incident I have forgotten is, there was a very sad accident off the Caronia, I might tell you first that the trains run along the side of the road at Cape Town not railed off at all, well just as a train was passing a place where the men had tea etc these two chaps slipped out of the doorway right in front of the train, of course were knocked over. One poor chap had both legs cut off, the other one leg & I assume the first one with both legs off died two days afterwards, the other was still alive when we left.
15th Fog cleared off, going on as usual, land sighted again, arrived at Durban 7 pm.
16th Lovely morning, went for a short route march after dinner, we had a big march about 5000 of us (a recruiting march) through the town, sweltering hot, after about 2 hours tramping through the streets, we were dismissed without any tea or any money to get anything, a d…….d disgusting affair altogether. The town is not so nice as CT only one main street any good, the Zulus and rickshaws are very interesting, also a good zoo.
Feb 17th Left Durban (a good job) on again next stop Bombay only the two boats now ours & Caronia.
18th Same old routine, feel queer owing to the doing they gave us at Durban had not enough food etc to stand it.
19th Felt worse, went sick, sea a bit rough
20th Still queer, warmer same old routine
21st Nothing out of the ordinary, feel a bit better
22nd Great excitement in the night owing to raider being about, full speed ahead, getting hot again, no water to wash with etc
23rd Very hot, no wash again
24th Quite a change, much cooler, still no wash things getting rotten, food etc
25th Weather the same, one mug of water per man to wash & shave in. One of my pals get 7 days C S for taking 2 mugs instead of 1.
26th A lot more doing, kit inspection etc, crossed the line again.
27th Hot calm sea good concert in the afternoon. No wash again.
28th Calm, very hot, usual routine
Mch 1st Lovely day, getting busy packing etc ready to land.
2nd Kit inspection etc, joined by pilot boat

3rd Anchored off Bombay Harbour, some of the troops got off, also the sailors Marines. Officer of the 25th London come aboard to inspect us.
4th lovely day, anxiously waiting to get off the boat, received two letters from you Dear, one from Sid, one from Florrie.
5th Boat moved into dock, landed at 3 pm. Good bye good riddance to the boat, Glad to the last of it after 8 weeks on the old tub, I think that it was very lucky not to have more sickness etc on board than there was, what with the overcrowding, food and lack of washing accommodation.
Now for the second stage of our journey , by rail from Bombay to Burhan on the NW Frontier.
5th We entrained at 3 pm plenty of room in the carriages to sleep etc for our 4 day’s journey (1924 miles) of course. I cannot give you all the names of all the places we passed but it was very interesting going along we stayed at some of the principal stations for our meals etc, the largest stations that I can remember were Delhi, Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, but altogether we had a very good journey, plenty of food etc.
We eventually arrived at Burhan on Mch 9th at 10 am, a very desolated place between the hills, the first performance was to be inspected by the C O of the 25th London, after that sent to our tents to settle down for a bit after some tea cake etc, nothing more to do that day except a bathing parade in the river.
Next morning got up at 6 am had one hour’s physical drill, breakfast, then medical inspection, another hour’s drill, after that an issue of bedding, shirts, socks, bowls, plates etc, also another uniform.
Myself and 4 other L Corpls made enquiries about our stripe and found that we should not benefit by it out here with the 25th so we all gave them in. As you know by now I am Cyclist now. Things went on the same for the three weeks which we were here, good food etc. I might add that we were in segregation (isolated) form the other troops for three weeks, were let out the day we moved from here to Jullundur, a rotten hole but as for what we hear, we shall not be here very long, as we are either going up the hills or to another station.
Dear Kid
I hope these few lines will interest you and give you five minutes pleasure to read.
Yours lovingly
May 1917
Cyclist E N Dean
B Company
1/25 London Regt

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