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Born: 3 October 1876, Shipley
Address: 18 Charnwood Road, Eccleshill
Parents: Richard & Eliza
Spouse: Anne, nee Taylor
Siblings: Mary, Sarah
Occupation: Coal elevetaor Attendant, Bradford Electricity Works
Rank: Petty Officer
Medals/awards: D.S.O. Mentioned in despatches
Rolls of Honour:
Children: Kathleen
Regiment: RN
John Denby
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John Denby was born 3 October 1876 in Shipley, the son of collier Richard and his wife Eliza. The couple also had two daughters, Mary Ann and Sarah Jane. In 1881 the family were living at Piccadilly, Shipley, but ten years later John and Sarah Jane were in Larkhall Road, Eccleshill with a widow, Nanny Mann. John is described as a boarder while his sister is ‘adopted daughter.’ John joined the navy on 3 October 1894 and is described as 5ft 1in tall, light brown hair and blue eyes. Around 1905 he married Anne Taylor and by the time of the 1911 census the couple had a daughter, Kathleen, and another child had died. John was now working as a coal elevator attendant at Bradford Electricity Works. There was another death in the family in 1914 when Sarah Jane, now a mother with two children, also died. It was that year John was recalled to the navy Escape disaster On 16 October 1914, the Shipley Times & Expressed reported: “First Petty Officer John Denby, a native of Shipley, who resides at 18 Charnwood Road, Eccleshill, joined the crew of the Cressy when called up as a reservist on the outbreak of the war but some time afterwards was chosen out of a number of petty officers for service on H.M.S. Macedonia, an armoured cruiser, and was thus fortunate in escaping the North Sea ‘disaster.’* “The Macedonia is now on patrol in Atlantic waters and in a letter received on Saturday by his wife, who by the way, is the daughter of the late Mr Thos Taylor, of the George Hotel, Idle, Petty Officer Denby says that at the time of writing they were with the Carmania, which sank the Cap Trafalgar, a German armoured cruiser. “Petty Officer Denby served in the Navy for 12 years and had been eight years on the reserve. “While on H.M.S. Thrush he took part in the expedition against the Brass River Chiefs in 1895 and also
participated in the bombardment of the Sultan’s Palace at Zanzibar on the 27th August 1896. “For his services in the expedition he was awarded a medal and bar. “He spent three years in South African waters and several years in the Antipodes.” *The Action of 22 September 1914 was an attack by the German U-boat U- 9 that took place during the First World War. Three obsolete Royal Navy cruisers of the 7th Cruiser Squadron, manned mainly by reservists and sometimes referred to as the Live Bait Squadron, were sunk by U-9 while patrolling the southern North Sea. Neutral ships and trawlers nearby began to rescue survivors but about 1,450 British sailors were killed, many being reservists with families; there was a public outcry in Britain at the losses. The sinkings eroded confidence in the British government and damaged the reputation of the Royal Navy when many countries were still unsure about taking sides in the war. (Wikipedia) The next we hear from John is on 22 January 1915: “First-Class Petty Officer John Denby, who married Miss Ann Taylor, daughter of a former landlord of the George Hotel, took part in the great battle of the Falkland Islands. Startled “The following letter has been received from him: ‘On the morning of the battle, the 8th December, the fleet was lying at anchor, some coaling, when at about 9a.m. we were startled by hearing two rounds fired at our wireless station. ‘The Germans had previously heard from their agents and spies that there were only three ships in harbour and they thought of
coming and ransacking the place and treating us like the Good Hope and Monmouth. ‘They had not reckoned on other ships being there, the secret having been so well kept by the Admiralty that even we on the station did not know. ‘After the two shots were fired the Canopus replied, firing over the hills. She was moored close to the shore and no one could see her from the sea. ‘Then up went the signal on the flagship to proceed to sea at once. There was some cheering, everyone taking it as a huge joke. Shell fired ‘The flagship led the way, closely followed by the other ships and on arriving outside, the Admiral signalled to us and another ship to cut off the armed merchant cruiser. ‘We put on full speed and overtook them at about 2p.m. They tried all they knew to escape but it was hopeless. Our speed was too great for them. ‘We made signals for them to stop but they took no notice so a shell was fired between the two ships. ‘They stopped then and we gave them 20 minutes to pack up and clear out. As soon as they were safely aboard our ship we opened fire and in a few minutes the two ships were burning from end to end. ‘The ships were the Baden and Santa Isabella and they were
loaded with troops, coal and stores for the Germans. ‘It was the sight of a lifetime to see the two ships sink. ‘When all was over we made for harbour again. It was a grand day’s work – two battleships, two cruisers and two transports sunk and only a few casualties on our side.’ Modest John appears to have been given a leave in 1917 and the local paper took the chance to talk to him for an article published on 17 August. It again relays the outline of his navy career then adds: “Like all naval heroes, Petty Officer Denby is very modest about his doing but he allowed our representative to examine a document written by his captain, who has recommended him for promotion, one sentence of which reads as follows: ‘On three separate occasions during the period when mines have been foul of sweep and kite wire, his prompt action and devotion to duty on the after platform have undoubtedly saved the ship from almost certain damage.’ “Petty Officer Denby’s many friends will be glad to hear that he has been recommended for a well- earned promotion and it is to be hoped that the document will receive due recognition at headquarters. “He has been at home for some days on leave but is awaiting orders to be called to his boat. He states that he has fought many tribes, including cannibals, but the Germans are the most heartless and cruel of the lot.” On 31 August 1917, John’s picture appeared in one of the regular galleries of ‘men who have served’ with the caption reading ‘mentioned in despatches.’ And on 8 March 1918, we read: “Petty Officer John Denby of 18 Charwood Road, Eccleshill, has been awarded the D.S.M. which he received from the King on Tuesday week.” John was discharged from the navy on 17 March 1919
1918 painting of battle of the Falkland Islands by William Wylie