The Denham Brothers and their Uncle Jack
Reg and Jack Denham had the example of two uncles in the Territorial Force when they chose to join the Army. Their father’s brother Edward left for the Boer war in 1900 with Jack Seely, but sadly died of sickness on the voyage out. A family photo shows Frederick, Jack and Edward Denham on board the SS Goth in 1900. Edward is on the right with the horse and his bugle.
Company Quartermaster Sergeant Jack Denham b 1873 Newport IW
Their Uncle, John Francis Denham, a mason at the Royal Brewery Newport, was a keen Isle of Wight Rifleman, who had joined up in 1908 aged 35. By the time war broke out Jack was a 41-year-old Sergeant.
His experience was needed to organise the men and he became Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS) for B Company. His nephew Reg is featured in other stories on this website and Reg’s brother Jack was also keen to fight with the other “Isle of Wighters”.
It is Sergeant Jack who is sitting with the gramophone and men of B Coy. In December 1914 at Sandown Barracks and Jack who sailed on the Aquitania with B Coy on July 31st 1915 from Liverpool to land in Suvla Bay. His disembarkation in “the Balkan Theatre of War” is in his medal record. He is recorded as being wounded at Gallipoli but he recovered, staying in service. Jack was transferred to the Hampshire Labour Corps in 1916, an option for men not A1 in fitness and he stayed with them until his discharge on 11th Jan 1920. It was a long time to be away from his wife and only child Alice.
In 1917 Reg Denham had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps Territorials in Southsea and the 1st Hampshire Regiment in France where he was promoted to Lance Corporal.
In 1917 Uncle Jack bumped into his nephew Reg in Southampton and Reg wrote to his Mother:
11th Trench Mortar Battery B.E.F. 4TH Jan1917
Just a line to let you know that I am safe again back with the Battery.
I had a rough journey across the Channel which added to my misery at leaving you behind,
but cheer-ho Mater we shall soon all come home as I think we have Fritz beaten to the wide.........
We had a fair time in Southampton. I met Uncle Jack & it seemed funny being saluted by one’s own uncle......
Young Jack Denham
John Francis Denham b 1899 Newport signed up in 1914 as a 15 year old soldier in the Isle of Wight Rifles and is clearly seen in a photo taken at Sandown in November 1914. The age of entry for the Territorials was 17, the idea being that a young lad would have two years training before he was old enough to move on to regular army service at the age of 19. When Jack signed up it was for a limited time.
It is quite obvious from a photo taken in November 1914 at Sandown that Jack was not the only lad too young to be there that day. Uncle Jack as his Sergeant, may well have intervened to prevent his nephew Jack from enlisting for active service. This may well have saved Jack’s life as many of his friends from the Isle of Wight Rifles were killed in Gallipoli. There must have been pressure on him to obey and perhaps that is why Jack quietly sailed to the Mainland to sign up for war service.
Jack ran away from home, enlisting at Southampton on 26 July
1915 giving his birth year as 1896, height 5 ft 5 inches and a false age of 19. He sent a photo home of himself and lads he was sharing with, to his Mother, telling her not to worry.
Jack was still a very young-looking 16 years when he signed for army service His brother Reg was with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Southsea, receiving thousands of wounded soldiers including prisoners. Jack joined the Hampshire Cyclists Battalion.
All Territorial Reservists were asked to sign a declaration when they enlisted for WW1 and were given the Imperial War Badge to wear on their right chest, over the pocket of their uniform jacket. Our photos show that Jack Denham and many local lads had this badge.
Jack and Reg Denham: Brothers in France
Jack was first posted to the 2/9th Battalion Hants Regiment, (The Cyclists) and served for 3 years and 140 days being discharged on 9Apr1919. By 1916 he had served overseas in France, on active service and been wounded, awarded one wound stripe. His son says that he was gassed and sent home from France unfit. Like others he said no more about the war.
Reg’s letter 31st Mar 1917 show that they exchanged photos.
31st Mar 1917
I am very sorry to say I have not heard from you for some time. I am beginning to wonder whether you are all right.
I heard from Jack the other day & he sent me a photo he looks quite a rué he is not looking so bad a L Cpl & I also
heard from Officers Families Fund. I had no idea you were applying to that but all the same I do hope you will come off all right as you deserve it.
I am quite well & am working very hard lately & have very little time to write to anyone, but do not worry if you do not hear from me now & again I always write when I can.
Am enclosing cheque & will you send 5/- to Jack & the 2/6 is for the kiddies give my love to them all.
Your affect. Son
Will you send more gramophone needles.
The Cyclists moved in 1917 to Sandown. Jack is on the Island in letters from his brother Reg, in May 1917 and later in July, at Tidworth Wiltshire near Bulford Camp, undergoing Non-Commissioned Officer training. There are number of photos showing Lance Corporal Jack with his good conduct stripe on his sleeve and not afraid to have some fun with his comrades.
13th May 1917 Arras France Same Address
I have been extremely lucky lately as I have not been in the line since I came back from leave but of course must not shout too loudly. I am at present under canvas & it is jolly fine as it is as good as sleeping in the open. Fritz visited us the other night and dropped a souvenir about 50 yds away just to remind us that there was still a war on.
Jack is a very lucky boy being in the Isle of Wight as he is at present & he tells me that Bingham is in charge what a funny thing don’t you think so?............................My word one does meet a lot of fellows out here. My friends at present are one Scotchman on Welsh & the other Irish & of course I am Isle of Wight. We all go for a walk after dinner into the village & have a drink & can come home to bed. They are an extraordinary lot of fellows & we very often have great rags. Our gramophone is still going strong & will you please send me some more needles as many as you like.
As it is so hot I had better not write any more or else I shall shrivel up. With my best love to the little ones.
Your affect. Son Reginald
At some point after that Jack transferred to the 7th Reserve Battalion of the Worcester Regiment. He was in this Battalion when he was disembodied on 9 April 1919 at Warwick.
Silver War Badge records show that Jack was wounded and awarded the badge in 1919 to wear on his civilian clothes.
His discharge papers show that he had changed Regiments as he was then Pte John Francis Denham of the 7th Reserve Brigade of the Worcester Regiment 207294.
207294 Pte DENHAM John Francis Worcestershire Regiment Badge number 503902 enlisted 26/7/15 discharge 9/4/16
Cause of discharge Sickness K R Para 392 age 20 years
Served abroad YES