WW1 and Dennis Huntington 1891-1956
Updated: Oct 29
HMS Ramillies, HMS Birkenhead and the naval base Devonport (Vivid I) during WW1
The joy of digging deep into your ancestors life, is it brings you closer as you dicover more about their lives. Just little insights into their every day comings and goings, opening up windows through which we get the briefest of glimpses, allowing us to know them just a little bit more.
My Grandad, Dennis Huntington, was born on 11 December, 1891, in Little Smeaton, West Yorkshire. He enlisted for the Navy on 2nd March 1916 and was assigned to Vivid I in Devonport. From his records, we know he was small in stature at only 5 feet 4.5 inches and a 37 inch chest.
Although there is a ship called Vivid - Vivid I was used as one of the nominal bases, which were established for personnel on detached duty and attached to HMS Vivid for accounting purposes. Historically if sailors were not assigned to a ship they would not get paid hence shore duties were assigned to ship names.
Vivid I was the Seamanship, Signalling and Telegraphy School in Devonport. Vivid II was the Stokers and Engine Room Artificers School in Devonport Vivid III was used for the Royal Naval Division Trawler Section. Vivid IV was for personnel at Falmouth (Cornwall) and what was then Queenstown in Ireland from 1922 to 1923. Vivid V was used for personnel at Milford Haven (South Wales).
Dennis was assigned to Vivid I for two periods. The first beng when he first signed up so it would make sense that he went to Vivid for his training.
After training Dennis was assigned to HMS Birkenhead for nearly12 months from 1 July 1916 to March 1917.
After this Dennis went back to Vivid I from 9th March to 4th May 1917. This I guess would have been shore leave after doing his tour of service aboard Birkenhead.
From 5th May 1917 - 21st April 1919 Dennis was assigned to HMS Ramillies. The ship was fully commissioned in September 1917 so Dennis must have been one of the first sailors to work on board. During WWI the ship did not go into combat as both the British and the German fleets had adopted a more cautious strategy by this time owing to the increasing threat of naval mines and submarines. Originally the ship was part of a number being built for the Greek Governemnt. But during the war, the British Governemnt bought them and commissioned them for use in the British Navy. After the war the ship did go on to serve in WWII where it saw miltary action.
Dennis' naval record
In his military record, Dennis' character is described as Very Good. He started as a Ordinary Seaman which was the lowest rank in the navy. By June 2017 he had been promoted to Able Seaman, which was the rank he left the navy with. Dennis was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal for his naval service.
Dennis was discharged in 1919. We know from the 1921 Census he went back home to live with his parents, Thomas and Florence Huntington, and went to work in the local woollen weaving industry at Trafalgar Mills, Leeds Road, Huddersfield as a Twister. In 1921 though he was out of work - not certain but quite possibly due to the 1920s depression. Given his excellent service in the Navy you would think his unemployment would be due to some external event rather than his own doing.
Dennis went on to marry Hannah Ledgard at the age of 35. Together they brought up 3 children.
I never knew my Grandad as sadly he died in 1956 at the age of 64 from lung cancer, 5 years before I was born. Researching his history though brings me closer to him, I know some of the basic facts of his life, even though I know, I'll never know what made him tick and what he was really like, as a son, brother, husband or Father. Even with such little information available to me, I still feel very proud, that like so many, my Grandad did his duty and served in the Great War.
Dennis is remembered in the Imperial War Museum's 'Lives of the First World War' project - his entry can be found here
Dennis as a young boy with his niece, Esther.