CAPTAIN JOHN EDWARD NEWDIGATE POYNTZ DENNING
26TH SEPTEMBER 1916 AGE 23
BURIED: HEILLY STATION CEMETERY, MERICOURT-L'ABBE, FRANCE
The source of this inscription is Jack Denning himself, from the last letter he wrote to his parents on the eve of battle.
Sept 24th '16
My own Dearest Mother & Dad,
This may or may not be my last letter to you, as we are in for it I think tomorrow. I sincerely hope it will be successful. At all events I am determined to go in and win as I know you would have me do. I know you may think this is rather ridiculous especially if I come through alright.
But you may rest assured that should I get pipped I shall have done my duty, and always remember it is far better to die with honour than to live in shame.
This must necessarily be a short letter as we are moving shortly.
The main object is that to please me, do not worry if I do get pipped.
Well darlings, best love to all I know. I am
Ever your loving Boy,
What happened the next day is recorded in the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment War Diary :
Two minutes before zero bayonets were fixed and the battalion "stood to" ready to go over the parapet. Each man carried an extra bandolier and a Mills bomb in addition to the complement of bombs carried by the Battalion and Company Bombers.
As the hands of the watches touched zero Captain J. Edes and Captain J.E.P.N. Denning, commanding A and C Companies respectively, followed by their men, sprang over the parapet of Gap Trench and advanced in quick time in two lines with a frontage of two platoons each company, fifty yards between the two lines. A Company was on the right, C on the left.
Both companies had advanced about fifty yards when they came into the enemy's artillery barrage from the right and machine-gun fire from the right front. In spite of heavy casualties, there was no wavering until the brigade front line was reached. ...
By this time Captain Denning and all the senior N.C.O.s of C Company had been wounded, and it was found necessary to re-organize the front line.
Denning was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station but he died the next day. The attack on Gueudecourt failed.
Jack Denning was the eldest of five brothers. Gordon Denning served in the Royal Navy during the First World War and died of tuberculosis in 1918; Reginald Denning served in the army rising to the rank of Lieutenant-General and receiving a knighthood at the end of his career; Alfred Denning, Lord Denning also served in the army and afterwards become a High Court Judge and Master of the Rolls, and Norman Denning, too young to serve in the First War, who became Director of Naval Intelligence after the Second. Despite the surviving brothers' glittering successes, Lord Denning always maintained that the two brothers who died in the war were the best of them.