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Thomas Dingley
??  Royal Engineers

      Thomas Kerslake Dingley was born in 1877 in Winkleigh. The 1911census records him as a carpenter, aged 34, and a boarder in a cottage in the High Street, the home and workshop of his cousin Samuel Inch, widower and retired carpenter. In fact, Thomas had lived with the Inch family from very early on: already the 1881 census records him there aged 4, when Samuel was already a widower. Living also with her father then was an elder daughter Elizabeth, described as a dressmaker, as well as the second daughter Mary, and a son Henry Arthur, aged 21, a carpenter like his father. By 1891 both Elizabeth and Mary were still living in the house, now joined by Annie Inch aged 10, Samuel’s granddaughter, while Thomas Dingley aged 14 was still at school. Ten years later in 1901 Thomas was still working with Samuel, Elizabeth and Mary kept house, while Annie aged 20 was a parlourmaid in the household of the Vicar, Henry Bremridge and his young wife Charlotte. Besides Thomas, the 1911 census shows Samuel, Mary and Annie, and a great-granddaughter Beatrice May, aged 8, who, by the time of Thomas’ funeral is listed as his step-daughter.

      In 1926 Thomas finally married Annie Inch. He was 49 years old, Annie 45.

      We know from the Winkleigh Roll of Honour that Thomas served in the Royal Engineers, but sadly in this case there is no surviving medal record, and his service documents were destroyed in the London blitz. However, following Thomas’ death in January 1936, aged 59, the ‘Western Times’ for January 10th reported fully on his funeral, with the information that Thomas had served in the Royal Engineers on a Home Defence Posting in Warwickshire. Aged 37 in 1914 his was obviously a later enlistment and given a medical grade that saved him from service overseas, a condition perhaps emphasized by a relatively early death. The report states that Thomas had been associated as a rural postman for ‘about 40 years’, which indicates that from some considerable time before the war he must have combined carpentry work with part-time postal deliveries - 40 years from 1936 takes us back to 1896. Thomas was very clearly a delightful man, loved and highly regarded by the village, a great and very well-known character who enjoyed all the friendships he made with both adults and children. The picture enhances the view that Winkleigh was a very happy and well-integrated village, a legacy that survives to this day.

      The roll-call of mourners at Thomas’ funeral gives us a snapshot of the Winkleigh society between the wars, and is especially interesting to allow us a glimpse of those families that had suffered loss. Most of the names on the Memorial Roll are represented: only the families of Sgt. Medlock, Ernest Hemmett, Capt.Harvey, Ernest Manley and Charley Darch were absent, and our researches show that in these cases (apart from Darch) the connection with Winkleigh had indeed been lost. Equally, many of the names on the Roll-of-Honour are equally familiar. Of special interest at the funeral is the list of the members of the British Legion who attended: family representatives of Knight, Lugg, Turner and Mitchell were among the bearers.

      The complete report in ‘The Western Times’ is attached.

      Thomas’ death was reported in almost exactly similar manner in the ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette’ for 10th January 1936. Here we learn a little more: occasionally he contributed an article to the ‘Gazette’ on hunting, under the nom-de-plume of ‘Nimrod and Baritone’, revealing another whole side of his life

16 July 2011


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