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Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 1999

Early Life

William Dean was born in St. Mary’s Parish in the town of Woolwich, Kent, in April of 1809. St. Mary’s Church is located south of the Royal Dock Yard and north of the Royal Infantry and Royal Artillery Barracks in the heart of the Woolwich military complex. It is probably safe to surmise that William Dean was the son of a serving soldier. The place of his birth and the fact that he would enlist in the Army as a Boy Soldier are two pieces of evidence to validate this assumption.

As a young boy he may have worked for a tailor, or he may have been a tailor’s apprentice, since this is the trade shown on his military service papers. He may have even worked as an assistant to a military tailor in the Woolwich area.


William Dean was 14 years old when he enlisted in the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners. This enlistment took place on the 16th of May 1823, during the reign of King William IV. Since he was under age for regular enlistment, he was taken on the rolls of the Corps as a Boy Soldier. After his enlistment, he was assigned Regimental Number 312 and was given such duties as were appropriate for a Boy Soldier at the time. In his case he probably continued to learn the trade of a tailor, since tailoring was one of the three principal trades taught to Boy Soldiers.

Assignments and Campaign Service

There is very little information available in the service papers of Sergeant Dean to indicate where he was assigned during his more than 38 years of service. He was taken on the rolls as a Private in the Royal Sappers and Miners on the 1st of April 1827, having attained the age of 18 years during the second quarter of that year. This reckoning, based on the first day of the quarter rather than a specific date, i.e. his birthdate, may have been due to the fact that he did not know his exact birthdate. He may have known that he was born sometime during the spring of the year. The Army gave him the benefit of the doubt by assuming that it was the 1st of April.

William Dean’s service papers indicate that he was serving near Halifax, Nova Scotia in September of 1840. Royal Sappers and Miners had been posted to Canada since 1811 performing a number of different duties there. These duties included surveying, road building, the construction of fortifications and many other engineering and pioneering tasks. The paucity of information contained in Dean’s service papers provides little information regarding his unit of assignment or his duties. His records do indicate, however, that he served in Canada for seven years and one month.

Following his return from Canada, his records give little indication of his postings with regard to either his units or his location. Again, his son's service papers show that in 1862 Sergeant Dean was residing at Lower Barracks in Brompton, Kent. By this time, Sergeant Dean had served more than 35 years. It would be reasonable to assume that he was probably serving as a Supernumerary for the Corps at this time. He appears to have served at the

Corps’ headquarters at Woolwich and at Chatham for a good part of his career after returning to England from Nova Scotia.

Promotions and Conduct

  1. Promotions. Sergeant Dean’s promotions during his service with the Colours are summarized in the following table:

Date of Appointment or Promotion


16 May 1823

Boy Soldier

1 April 1827


14 March 1847

2nd Corporal

1 September 1848


13 October 1852


It is interesting to note that after his promotion to Sergeant, he served over 13 more years without any further promotions. As will be seen in the section below, his conduct was certainly not the cause of his not being promoted further.

2. Conduct

At the time of his discharge, Sergeant Dean was in possession of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and a gratuity of 10 Pounds. Dean became eligible for this medal in 1845 when he completed 18 years of service, reckoned from the date of his entry into the ranks after reaching the age of 18.

Sergeant Dean’s character and conduct were rated as "exemplary." His service papers contain an entry that reads that he "would have been in possession of nine Good Conduct Badges had he not been promoted to Sergeant." This entry is lined out with the note that as "he enlisted previous to the date of the present Good Conduct Warrant, he did not avail himself of its advantages, having enlisted under a previous warrant." The "present Good Conduct Warrant" referred to in this statement is the Warrant of 1860; that is, the last Warrant placed into effect prior to his discharge.

His name appeared once in the Regimental Defaulters’ Book, but he was never tried by court martial. Unfortunately, his service papers do not indicate the infraction he committed to have his name placed in the Book.

Marriage and Family Information

William Dean was married when he was a Private, probably without leave. His wife was with him in Nova Scotia. There is a good possibility that he married a woman he met in Halifax. His wife gave birth to their son, George, near Halifax on the 3rd of September 1840. There are no further details available in Sergeant Dean’s service papers concerning his family.


On the 21st of September 1865 a discharge board was proposed by the War Office at Horse Guards in London to consider the discharge from service of Sergeant Dean as a result of his having served upwards of 21 years. From the wording in his service papers, it appears that the War Office felt that it was time for Dean to leave the service. He does not appear to have applied for his discharge.

A Regimental Discharge Board convened at Chatham on the 1st of January 1866. The board was composed of the following officers:

Board President: Major G. Longley, R.E.

Member: Captain A.T. Storer, R.E.

Member: Captain J.T. Twigge, R.E.

On the day the board convened, Sergeant Dean’s total service was recknoned at 38 years and 276 days. His papers indicate that his service was reckoned from the 1st of the quarter in which he attained the age of 18 years. The board members examined Dean’s service record and found him eligible for discharge. The proceedings of the board were then examined by Captain R.M. Parsons, R.E. and were found to be correct. Sergeant Dean’s discharge was subsequently approved on the 8th of January 1866 by the Assistant Adjutant General of the Royal Engineers, Colonel J.F.M. Browne, R.E.

Dean was finally discharged from the Army on the 16th of January 1866. On that date his total service was reckoned at 38 years and 291 days. His description on discharge was as follows:

Height: 5 feet 7-1/2 inches. Complexion: swarthy. Eyes: hazel. Hair: light grey.
Sergeant Dean had no scars or distinguishing marks worthy of note.

Upon leaving the service, Sergeant Dean indicated that his intended place of residence was Chatham, Kent.

(the following information was provided by Mr. Steve Smith)

William Dean

The 1861 census for Gillingham, Kent provided the following information regarding the Dean family.  This information was taken from Piece RG/480; Gillingham, Kent, Enumeration District 14; Civil Paris: Gillingham; Ecclesiastical Parish: Trinity; Folio 60; Page 17; Schedule 104.

The Deans were residing on Lower Brittain Street at the time of the census.  The census information shows the following:

William Dean was the head of the household and at 52 years of age he is shown as a sergeant in the Royal Engineers.  His daughter, Mary Ann, a 21-year old dress maker also is living at this address.  Mary Ann's place of birth is shown as Halifax Nova Scotia.  A son, Frederick Dean, is listed as an 18-year old tailor also living at this address.  His place of birth also is shown as Halifax, Nova Scotia.

William Dean married Margaret Elizabeth Edwards in Nova Scotia, and as indicated above, all their children were born there.  There is no record of Margaret Elizsbeth living with William Dean in the 1861 census.

Edward Charles Dean

There is evidence that the Deans had another son, Edward Charles, who also served in the Royal Engineers.  He married one Elizabeth Youle.  Elizabeth was the daughter of David Youle who was born in 1808 in St. Andrews Parish, Fife, Scotland.  

David Youle

David Youle serves as a Bugle Major in the Royal Sappers and Miners.  Upon his retirement in 1870 he was made an Honorary Captain in the Royal Engineers.

The 1851 census of St. Mary's Parish for Woolwich and Greenwich (HO107/1589/434) shows the following information for the Youle family:

Head of Household: Bugle Major David Youle, Royal Sappers and Miners, a widower, age 45.

Daughter Elizabeth Youle, age 14.

Son Henry Robert Youle, age 6.

Daughter Eliza Youle, age 3.

David Youle was promoted to the rank of Bugle Major on 8 July 1835.  He was appointed a Quartermaster on 14 January 1858 and Honorary Captain on 19 January 1870, the date that he retired from the army.  He died at Leeds on 8 March 1887.

David's father, born in 1789, was also named David.  He married one Helen Norrie.  David's brother, Alexander Youle was born in 1783 and served in the Royal Artillery.  Alexander Youle was present at the Battle of Waterloo.

Elizabeth Dean

Edward Charles Dean's wife, Elizabeth, died on the 16th of February 1875 at the age of 38 years at Hay Street in Perth, Scotland.  She was buried on the 17th of February 1875 in the parish Church of England cemetery.  The cause of her death was listed as consumption (tuberculosis).  Her father is listed as Captain D. Youle, Royal Engineers.

The above information is from the State Record Office, Acc 2799, Registration Number 8360 and a newspaper notice in the obituary section of The Inquirer and Commercial News, dated 17 February 1875, page 2.

Elizabeth Youle was born on 1 December 1837.  She was married on 10 August 1855 at Enniskillen, Fermoy, Ireland.  Her husband Edward Charles Dean is listed as serving in the Survey Department.  Edward and Elizabeth had 11 children: Charles Youle, born 1856; Helen Maud Mary, 1858-1928; Alfred 1859-1945; Ann Emma, 1860-1915; Elizabeth Harriet Jane, born 1862; Ernest Vincent Pocklington, 1863-1863 at sea; Frederick William, 1864-1865; Ada Florence, born 1866; Eva Jane, born 1868; Mabel Blanche, born 1872; Madelaine 1874-1874.



1. CONOLLY, T.W.J. Roll of Officers of the Corps of Royal Engineers From 1660 to 1898. The Royal Engineers Institute, Chatham, Kent, 1898.
2. CONOLLY, T.W.J. The History of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners. Volumes I and II. Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, London, 1855.
3. FARWELL, B. Mr. Kipling’s Army: All the Queen’s Men. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1981.
4. GRIERSON, J.M. Scarlet Into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War. Greenhill Books, London, 1988.
5. PORTER, W. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume I. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1952.
6. SKELLEY, A.R. The Victorian Army at Home: The Recruitment and Terms and Conditions of the British Regular, 1859-1899. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, 1977.


1. LARIMORE, F.B. Long Service and Good Conduct Chevrons (Badges) and their Periods of Qualification. Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, 1998.
2. WO97/1360. Soldier’s Service Papers. Public Record Office, London.

a. W.O. Form 83. Proceedings of a Regimental Discharge Board.
b. Detailed Statement of Services.

Internet Web Sites

1. http://eastperthcemeteries.com.au/search-genealogical/8396-dean
2. http://www.reubique.com/officers.htm
3. pedwards@unicef.org


1. BAEDEKER, K. Great Britain Handbook for Travellers. Karl Baedeker, Publisher, Leipzig, 1910.
2. BARTHOLOMEW, J. Reference Atlas of Greater London. John Bartholomew & Son Ltd., Edinburgh, 1957.