William Dean (1865-1915)

William Dean was a private in the King's Liverpool Regiment and was posted to Knockaloe as part of the detail charged with policing the camp. Dean was an army veteran who had worked in Southport as a bricklayer following his discharge from the British Army (1878). Dean is believed to have shot himself whilst on duty at the camp. At an inquest into his death his commanding officer Corporeal Frank Rimmer reported

I knew William Dean very well, having known him for about 20 years. We belonged to the same Company. The deceased originally came from Wigan, but when he left the Brtish Army in 1878 he went to reside in Southport. He was an expert range layer and bricklayer. We both came to Knockaloe on the same day - about the 16th or 17th November. He was about 50 years of age. i have not seen the deceased since before he went on duty. The deceased had some trouble in connection with his family affairs - one of his sons was not altogether as he should have been. His wife died about six months ago. he often mentioned her, but I could not tell if he was brooding over it. For the last three weeks he was very despondent. Sometimes he was cheeful. We had some conversation on Saturday about his past military service and he seemed very cheerful over them. He did not tell me directly what he was brooding about, but, simply, things were not going as they should have done through one of his sons being not what he should have been. He mounted guard on Sunday morning and he was then apparently his ordinary self. I saw him on Sunday afternoon, but had no conversation with him except to say "Good afternoon." There was nothing to point out to me that he was then in a despondent state of mind. There was nothing whatever in his attitude to show he was not fit to go on duty. He never said anything to me about taking his life, and never gave the slightest indication of any such thing (Peel City Guardian, 4 September 1915: 3).

Some further insight into Dean's state of mind and the incident comes from his friend Pte Robert Gregson who had been on duty with him at the time of his death. Gregson observed

I knew him before he came here. On Sunday night we were on duty next to each other. He was on the last post - nearest Peel HilL We went on duty together, but I was not talking to him. There was nothing whatever in his demeanour to show he should not be on duty. He called me about twenty minutes to three on Monday morning. When he called I would be about 20 to 25 yards away from him. He called out "Gregson, it 's time we fixed our bayonets." I said " Yes, the relief will be coming out shortly now." I went back to my sentry box and fixed my bayonet, and stayed there until I neprd a shot about five minutes afterwards. When I heard the shot fired I passed the word to the sentry on the right and then shouted to Dean, but did not get an answer. I went down his beat to see if I could find him. I found his hat blown off and turned round and found him lying against the wall. I saw at once what had happened and snatched the rifle which was between his knees, the muzzle of which was pointing upwards in the direction of his head. It was not against his neck. I put my hand on his heart to see if there was life. I saw at once he had been shot. He was perfectly dead at the time. The guard was called out and the body removed. When on sentry, as he was, the rifle was not loaded and he should not have had it loaded (Peel City Guardian, 4 September 1915: 3).

The Coroner concluded that, "the evidence showed that he had private troube about his sone, and though he did not say very much about it, it was there.... There was not much doubt about him taking his own life"; the jury at the inquest agreed that "the deceased had died by his own hand during a fits of temporary insanity" (Peel City Guardian, 4 September 1915: 3).

The death of Dean came a week or so after the death of Sgt David Jones who had been on duty at Knockaloe, but who had been released from his position due to ill health. He returned to his home in Birkdale to convalesce, but killed himself (Peel City Guardian, 28 August 1915: 6).