Comments on Dennis Deane-Daniels

Heide and I visited Arnhem and the airborne division cemetery on Thursday 3 September.

To our relief, the rain held off. The airborne division cemetery is in the middle of a larger, wooded cemetery where local residents are buried. The atmosphere is peaceful and uncomplicated. The graves are not cluttered with plants or memorials and the gravestones are simple. This spirit is reflected in the graves of the airborne division soldiers who are buried there. Their tombstones bear the insignia of the division, the name and number of the deceased and any short words chosen by their next of kin.

In the case of Dennis, I am sure the words were chosen by his father, my Grandpa Daniels as I called him to distinguish him from Grandpa Gower.

The inscription reads
5340429 S.SGT
AGE 25

To that is added in Latin words from the Introit and Gradual of the Order of Mass for the Dead

“Requiem eternam dona ei, Domine et lux perpetua luceat ei." Amen


It was very moving to be taken back by 65 years. Dennis was a very special uncle and I remember him, and love him, to this day. At the time, I was told he had gone to Holland. I still remember asking Grandpa Daniels in South Africa when would Uncle Dennis be coming back from Holland and he told me with great sadness that Uncle Dennis had died. As I was used to relatives dying in the War, it did not overwhelm me. I inherited three of his poetry books and all three made a deep impression on me when I was studying English for A Level. Herbert Read, who became better known as an art critic and a specialist in ceramics, was a pacifist and, I seem to recall, an anarchist in the sense that he believed power to be a corrupting influence. Uncle Dennis refused to seek a commission as an officer and I detect something of the philosophy of Herbert Read in that decision. T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land and other poems” left me struggling but I was highly impressed by “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. The last of the three was W. H. Auden and his collection of poems under the title “Another Time” included his poem of “Spain”, which remained a very emotional topic until the death of General Franco. Auden was embarrassed by it in later life, I think, because it never appeared in his Collected Poems.

Thankfully, my mother kept these volumes, together with his note books, and I still have them. I photocopied them and gave that copy to Kevin Browne.

Nicole tells me that, up to the date of his drowning, Michael Browne kept a photograph of my father and of Uncle Dennis in his wallet. My father was his godfather but Dennis was a much-loved cousin. I know that Michael visited Arnhem. He told Mother that he had done so and promised to take her one day. Mother was never sure she could cope with a visit to Uncle Dennis’s grave. He looked after her to the best of his ability after my father’s death and opened her eyes to ballet and music.

I am told I was taken by them to a lunchtime piano recital, given by Dame Myra Hess, and behaved myself. In turn, Mother took me to the ballet at Covent Garden in my late teens when Dame Margot Fonteyn was in her prime. We saw her in “The Firebird” at a time when Stravinsky was still considered very avant-garde.

I also have to remember that Uncle Dennis left me £300, which Mother put into National Savings certificates. I invested the proceeds in shares when I qualified as a solicitor and sold those shares when I married Heide. It provided the deposit on our first house.

8 September 2009

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