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We will remember them

A Tale of Three Brave Brothers

Captains CourageousOn holiday in Cumbria in 1999, I came across the brass memorial plates on the left in the parish church of Lamplugh.

The first two, erected by a grieving father, tell the poignant story of three brothers - all Captains - two of whom died in the war itself, one near Hooge in 1915, the second at Le Plantin in 1918. The third, died in 1932 "as a result of wounds and ill-health contracted in the war". More poignantly still, the third plate remembers the death of the last brother's little daughter in 1927 at the age of eight.

At the time I knew no more about the brothers and their families than was revealed in these memorials, except that a couple of hundred yards down the road from the old church there's a cottage called "Le Plantin".

At the time it had seemed intrusive to start knocking on doors, and asking questions. It was one of those stories to be filed away as a reminder of the human effects of that terrible war.

But then a year later, I had an email from the son of the brother who survived the war which explained one element of the story:

My grandfather George erected a pair of cottages in Lamplugh - near the church where you came across the memorial tablets - The first Hooge in memory of my uncle Ronald and the second Le Plantin in memory of my uncle Alan. They have been charitable almshouses since the 1920s when they were built."

Then Alan Seymour kindly got to work on my behalf and came up with a variety of materials about the brothers, from their old school Rugby, from a 1920 publication Liverpool's Scroll of Fame and from a more recent book Bravest of Hearts. So, here are brief biographies of the three brave brothers, whose parents George and Florence Dickinson lived in an imposing house just a couple of miles up the road from the church at Lamplugh.

GeorgeGeorge Fryer Dickinson (right) was born in July 1886 and was educated at Rugby school, and then Pembroke College Cambridge where he studied law. He became a barrister in 1911. As a pre-war volunteer he was quickly called for active duty and was with the first contingent from the Liverpool Scottish regiment which arrived in France in November 1914. He was severely wounded at Hooge on 16 June 1915, and as we see from the memorial plaque suffered from his war wounds until his death in 1932 at the early age of 46.

RonaldRonald Francis Bickersteth Dickinson (left) was born two years after George. He also went to Rugby school which he left in 1905. After qualifying as a solicitor in 1910, he joined his father's old law firm in Liverpool. Like his older brother he joined the Liverpool Scottish before the war, and was in the first contingent which went over to France in November 1914. He was killed at Hooge on the same day as his brother was wounded. Despite being hit several times by machine gun fire he reached a captured German trench and, propped up again a traverse he continued to give orders to his men. As the enemy mounted a successful counter-attack he ordered his men to retreat, which they did with great reluctance. He probably died soon after his capture. The Germans reported giving him a formal burial, but his grave was subsequently lost. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial. Ronald had been mentioned in dispatches on 31 May 1915, and Captain Noel Chavasse VC, wrote of him "We all looked up to him, he was a byword for calmness and courage."

AlanAlan Peile Dickinson MC (right) was born in June 1891, and educated at Rugby, then Pembroke College. He enlisted as a private in the Liverpool Scottish on the outbreak of war and was commissioned on 17 November 1914. He became a company commander in June 1915, and arrived in France in February 1917. In June of that year he was responsible for planning a special daylight raid which was officially known afterwards as "Dicky's Dash". At dawn on 1 June 1918 near Festubert he was fatally wounded by a shell which also killed his runner and a stretcher bearer. In the King's Birthday Honours of 3 June 1918 he was awarded a Military Cross "for consistent good work ... This officer has always maintained a very high standard of efficiency in the company." Alan is buried in Houchin British Cemetery, Pas de Calais.

Again, many thanks to Alan Seymour for all the information. The book 'Bravest of Hearts' The Biography of a Battalion - The Liverpool Scottish in the Great War is by Hal Giblin with David Evans and Dennis Reeves. It is available via the website of the Liverpool Scottish or from Ray Westlake books.

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Wednesday 9 February 2005