Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

John Dennison

John Dennison :

John Dennison : Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Natal', 'Belfast'

Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Natal', 'Belfast'

John was born in around May 1876 in St John's, Manchester. We don't know anything about his family or his early life.

On the 7th May 1894 John applied to join the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Militia, so he would have been required to attend an annual training period, but at other times would live as a civilian. John said he was 18 years old exactly and that he lived at Number 5 Bentley's Buildings on Oldham Road in Manchester. He had not been living there for very long though, he had spent most of the previous year at 5 Sycamore Street, near Oldham Road. He was working as a labourer for Kerr and Hogger, textile dyers based on Grimshaw Lane in Newton Heath.

John was accepted into the Militia and given the service number 4806. He was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 115 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. He was a member of the Church of England.

John attended his annual training during 1895, 1896 and 1897. On the 2nd September of that year he decided to become a member of the Militia Reserve. A member of the Militia could only be called up by the Army to serve with the rest of his Militia unit. A member of the Militia Reserve, on the other hand, was willing to be called up as an individual or in a small group and to serve in a unit of the Regular Army. John could now carry out his training with the 3rd Battalion or with a unit of the Regular Army, although we don't know which form his annual training in 1898 and 1899 took.

The Boer War broke out in October 1899 and began badly for the British. The Army suffered a number of defeats, and by the end of the year it was sending large numbers of extra soldiers to South Africa to join the war. It also created several new Regular infantry battalions. Two of these were formed by the Manchester Regiment as the 3rd and 4th Battalions, meaning that on the 17th February 1900 the Militia units were renumbered as the 5th and 6th Battalions.

At around the same time John and the other Militia Reservists were called up for service in the Regular Army. John was sent to join the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. We don't know when he joined them, although he had arrived by August.

Using the extra soldiers arriving in South Africa the British Army began trying to force the Boers to face it in battle. They succeeded on the 21st August 1900 at the Battle of Belfast, or Bergendal. John took part in this battle, which lasted until the 27th and ended with the defeat of Boer forces and the capture of their temporary capital, Machadodorp (today called eNtokozweni). The Boers did not surrender; they fought on as guerrillas in small units, so John stayed in South Africa.

John spent the rest of the war involved in smaller operations intended to restrict the Boer's movements and force them to face British soldiers. This strategy was eventually successful and the war ended on the 31st May 1902. He returned to the UK on the 1st August 1902 and was demobilised on the 24th.

We don't know whether John attended his annual training after the war. His agreed period of service ended on the 6th May 1904, so he left the Militia.

The rest of John's life remains a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in 1949.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf

Telephone: 0161 342 5480
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Army Museums Ogilby Trust logo
Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council