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Remembered Today:

Bertram Best Dunkley VC


Mark Hone
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Does anyone have easy access to a photo and biographical information on Best Dunkley, who won the VC as CO of 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers on 31st July 1917? Unfortunately I don't have the Passchendaele volume of the excellent VCs of the First World War series.

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Mark

Do you have access to a copy of Thomas Hope Floyd's 'At Ypres with Best-Dunkley'? I love this book. Ever since I bought it, I have been amused by a potted version of it's 'story line' which appears to be something like this:

"When I joined the battalion, everyone was friendly but they all warned me about Best-Dunkley. He was hated by everyone. They told me tales and warned me that I should steer clear of him. Then I met B-D. I don't know about anyone else, but I thought he seemed alright. But still they warned me: he might seem alright, but we all hate him. But he was still alright with me. They said he was a wrong'un. I thought 'well, he seems all right'. Then we were told we were to take part in the great offensive. When the battalion attacked, B-D did that wonderful thing he did that all of us now know won for him the VC. It was wonderful and we all know exactly what he did. He was a real hero. However, he died whilst doing this and his infant child went with its mother to Buckingham Palace to receive the award. THE END."

Having seen his grave at Mendinghem or Bandaghem, I've always been intrigued to know more about Best-Dunkley and his real reputation.

Enlightment appreciated!

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Mark:

Here's from the 1891 census:

Name Age in 1891 Birthplace Relationship to head-of-house Civil parish County

Dunkley, Alfred 50 Loughborough Head St Mary Bishopshill Junior Yorkshire

Dunkley, Augusta Mary 34 Nottinghamshire Wife St Mary Bishopshill Junior Yorkshire

Dunkley, Bertram B 8.12 Yorkshire Son St Mary Bishopshill Junior Yorkshire

Dunkley, William Draper 2 Yorkshire Son St Mary Bishopshill Junior Yorkshire

Also here is the 1901 census:

Name Age in 1901 Birthplace Relationship Civil Parish County/Island

Augusta Dunkley 36 Nottinghamshire, England Head Paddington London

Bertram B Dunkley 10 Yorkshire, England Son Paddington London

Eric J Dunkley 2 Kensington Son Paddington London

William D Dunkley 12 Yorkshire, England Son Paddington London

Notice an age descripency in mothers age(quite common)!

gordon

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Any idea where he picked up the hyphen, Gordon? I suppose "Bert Dunkley" didn`t have quite the ring for an ambitious officer in those days! Phil B

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Dear all, Thanks for the help. I'm going to use 'At Ypres With Best Dunkley' as one of the eyewitness accounts on my tour. I haven't got the actual book, but two extensive quotations are given in the anthology 'The Hazy Red Hell'. I've also been to B-D's grave at Mendinghem, incidentally the only CWGC cemetery (as far as I know) with a pipe lament named after it.

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Phil:

I did some further research on a possibility of putting the hyphen between the

Best-Dunkley.(maybe the Best could be his mothers maiden name)-it wasn't.

Here's from the marriage of his parents in 1887:

Name Year Quarter Record Type County Volume Page

Draper, Augusta Mary 1887 December Marriages East Riding of Yorkshire North Riding of Yorkshire North Yorkshire West Riding of Yorkshire 9d 88

Dunkley, Alfred Corah 1887 December Marriages East Riding of Yorkshire North Riding of Yorkshire North Yorkshire West Riding of Yorkshire 9d 88

As you can see the mother put her maiden name(Draper) with Bertram's brother:

William Draper Dunkley.

All I can figure was he found using a double barrelled name as something personel

(or some other reason), maybe making his name stand out!

gordon

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  • 9 years later...

You can download At Ypres With Best Dunkley for free on several ebook sites.

Maricourt

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  • 4 months later...

As I subsequently discovered T.H. Floyd was actually an old boy of Bury Grammar School, where I teach. He describes the death of his friend Gilbert Verity in the book but research into this officer, who is buried at Lijssenthoek, has revealed some discrepancies with Floyd's account. Floyd's description of the 31st July attack was retraced on the ground on my 10th anniversary school tour in October 2004, with Forum Pal Kristof in 1917 LF uniform alongside. Floyd's account of putting on his gasmask was recreated by Kristof close to the actual spot with authentic equipment. Incredible to think that that was nearly a decade ago and I am now in the midst of planning the 20th anniversary tour! The whereabouts of Best-Dunkley's VC is a bit of a mystery. The one at the Fusilier Museum may not be the original.

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Interestingly T. H. Floyd was a great collector of WW1 memoirs. Many of the books in his collection were inscribed to him & from what I've seen he often made notes in the books if he'd been in action in the same area. It seems that after his death the collection passed to Salford Library and thence to the University. I would have thought this collection would have made an invaluable resource but sadly the library must have decided it was surplus to requirements as copies are regularly appearing for sale on antiquarian book sites.

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Very interesting. His private papers, including an unpublished sequel to 'At Ypres...' about the last weeks of the war, are held at Preston Record Office. A pity about the disbursement of his memoirs collection. Are there rules about flogging off legacies?

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I imagine Institutions might be reluctant to accept donations if they come with too many strings attached. Certainly makes me reluctant to donate my collection to a library. I've even seen many books carrying the mark of the Imperial War Museum on the market lately. You'd hardly believe it but in one of the Floyd books I bought, Salford Library had stuck their library sticker over the dedicatees signature!

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  • 1 month later...

Has anyone done any specific detailed research on Best-Dunkley? I am planning an article and accompanying talk on 2/5th LF's action on 31st July 1917 during which he won the VC. I have always suspected that Best-Dunkley was mortally wounded by a 'short' from the DF stonk he called in to break up the German counter-attack on his position, but have never seen anything definitive on this.

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