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Colonel Basil Cranmer Dening
Basil Cranmer Dening was Richard Dening's father. His obituary notice is reproduced below.

1939. His Majesty says farewell to 4th Division.

1939. His Majesty says farewell to 4th Division.
(His Majesty King George V1 standing in the centre with Colonel Basil Dening on the king's right.)


January 1941

Obituary Notices

(Supplement to the R.E. Journal

Colonel B.C. Dening, C.B.E, M.C.

The death in action on June 2nd in a destroyer off Dunkirk, of Colonel Basil Cranmer Dening, G.S.O.1 of the 4th Division, deprives the Corps of Royal Engineers, the Army, and indeed the British Empire, of an officer whose moral and intellectual attainments would have carried him far up the ladder of fame. His career was cut short when he was almost within reach of safety; after superintending the embarkation of his men he himself continued fighting to the last, firing a Bren gun till killed by a German bomb - "and so passed over to the other side." Beneath a quiet and almost retiring manner he possessed the courage of his convictions - based on an unusually clear brain and deep study of his profession; this courage was matched by his physical bravery, and a strong and determined character.

Basil Dening was the son of the late Walter Dening, and was born in Australia on September 27th, 1894. His father was first a missionary, and then a professor of English literature, in Japan, where he was a well known figure during the latter part of the Meiji era. Walter Dening’s knowledge of the Japanese language enabled him to smooth the path of many foreign students by a series of books on the subject; he was also the author of A New Life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and numerous other works. This literary ability descended to his son, whose essays on various military subjects won him the Bertrand Stewart Prize in the Army Quarterly on three separate occasions. Basil’s mental vigour and remarkable powers of concentration enabled him to write the drafts of some of his articles during his daily train journeys between his home at Fleet and London, when working at the War Office. His publications included a book on the mechanization of the British Army (1925), a collection of notes designed to assist candidates for the Staff College (1930), and a work entitled Modern War (1937).

From 1925 to 1929 he was a General Staff officer in the Intelligence branch, for the last two years under the writer of this memoir; his grasp of the political, economic, and military problems of the various countries with which he dealt (including the United States of America, Italy and the Balkans), and his lucid memoranda, were of great value to the General Staff at that time. Not the least of his assets were the charm and modesty with which he expounded his views.

Educated at Crediton, Dening passed into the Royal academy in 1912, and received his commission in the Royal Engineers o February 18th, 1912. A 2nd-Lieutenant at the beginning of the Great War, he was wounded at Messines in March, 1915, and was subsequently awarded the Military Cross for the part he took in that action. His services in the field, both as a regimental and a staff officer, were so distinguished that he was mentioned in despatches four times, and received a brevet majority in the Peace Gazette of June 3rd, 1919 - some months before his twenty-fifth birthday.

After serving in Ireland from 1921 to 1923, he passed through the Staff college, Camberley, and was appointed to the Railway Commission of the Army of the Rhine in Cologne, his knowledge of German being most useful. His work at the War Office during the next four years has already been referred to. He sailed to India in 1930, saw regimental service with the Q.V.O. Madras Sappers and Miners, was on the staff at Simla, and then became an instructor at the Staff College, Camberley, where he spent the next two years. In 1937 he was appointed C.R.E. London District, and in January, 1939, took up the post which he held at the time of his death.

He was created C.B.E. in time for the Birthday Honours of 1940, in recognition of his fine work, but did not live to know of his reward; Mrs. Dening was given her husband’s insignia by H.M. The King at a recent investiture at Buckingham Palace.

Dening received a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonelcy on January 1st, 1933, and he could count under the regulations then in force on reaching the rank of Substantive Colonel at about the age of 42. His future in the Army was assured - especially as the results of the Stanhope Committee began to bear fruit at the end of 1934, and a steadily increasing flow of promotion to Major-General set in from the Colonels’ list.

He was as good a Sapper as a staff officer; and his wide experience, and a growing and fully-justified confidence in his own powers, occasionally prompted ambitions in a wider field than the Army.

Had Basil Dening decided to put these to the test, his influence might have played a notable part in the history of our Empire. Be that as it may, the example and memory of a man who laid down his life in the British Army’s adversity in 1940 will not be soon forgotten.

He was a keen athlete and sportsman, being particularly fond of riding. At Quetta he won several point-to-point trophies, and after returning to England rode in many similar meetings in the southern counties. A keen exponent of rough shooting, he probably bagged more game in the Aldershot Command shoot than most people thought existed. Team games, and the spirit which animates them, always appealed to him, and he played hockey, Rugby football, and cricket with zest and ability; the ethics of cricket probably meant as much to him as its technical exposition.

A devoted husband and father, Colonel Dening, who married in December, 1916, is survived by his widow, formerly Miss Ruth Henderson, of Crediton, and four children. Both sons went to Cambridge, and the elder has now left for the Indian Army; the two daughters are still at school. Basil’s younger brother, Esler, followed his father’s footsteps to the Far east, and after serving in the Great War joined the Japanese Consular Service; he held various posts in the Japanese Empire, and in Manchuria, and is now employed at the Foreign Office.











Website: Copyright B.Corker 2008     Page Image: Copyright E.G.L.Dening 2008