The Priory  

John's youngest son, Leonard, left home in 1911 to join the Royal Engineers as a regular soldier. All John's sons had joined the army. Three of them, Charles,Frank and Ernest had seen active service in the Boer War (1899-1902) and survived. Frank was the unlucky one; he was discharged from the army in 1910, suffering from tuberculosis contracted in South Africa and died from it in 1913, aged 30. His step-mother was in attendance at his death in Herne Bay. 


                           The Priory, Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire (built 1675)

The period after the Boer War was a relaxed one for John and Annie and for their daughters living at home.



The war period 1914-18 which followed, was a more anxious time for John.His sons, Charles, Ernest and Leonard saw active service on the Western Front and Salonika and Arthur served in India. His brother George's sons were in the forces and in 1916 the youngest son William was killed on 5 July at the Somme. John's grandson, ARTHUR CHARLES (Charles' eldest son) served as a subaltern with Allenby in Palestine.

A local paper had this to say about John Dickens and his childrens' involvement in the early part of the war:

A Fine Record

'Sergeant Major C.H. Dickens, Royal Field Artillery, to be Second-Lietenant (dated 6 December 1914)

This is the oldest son of Captain J. Dickens of Ingoldmells. In addition, he has three other sons serving; one as Master Gunner, Royal Garrison Artillery, one as a Sergeant-Major, Royal Field Artillery and the youngest in the Royal Engineers. Two other sons, who served in the Field Artillery are deceased,making in all, six sons given to the country. Captain Dickens also has three daughters in the nursing profession, the eldest of whom is nursing the wounded at the 1st Southern Hospital.'

The Master Gunner referred to was Arthur Dickens, stationed in India, the Sergeant-Major in the RFA was Ernest, and the youngest son in the Engineers was Leonard. The two other sons, deceased, who had served in the Artillery were Frank (d.1913) and Herbert (d.1896). Mary was the daughter nursing the wounded and the two other daughters in the nursing profession were Lily and Agnes (Gertie).


Despite the war, life went on at the Priory and John and Annie helped the war effort in their own way, as the Skegness, Mablethorpe and Alford News reported on 9 June 1915:

'We acknowledge with deep gratitude the handsome sum of 30s for our Soldiers' Tobacco Fund, received per Captain and Mrs Dickens, The Priory, Ingoldmells this mornng. The money is the proceeds of a sale of work organised by Captain and Mrs Dickens held at The Priory yesterday, and on behalf of our gallant lads at the Front who will receive the much appreciated smokes, we tender our sincere thanks both to the organisers of the affair and to all those good people in the parishes of Ingoldmells and Addlethorpe who contributed large and small amounts to the handsome sum realised.'

The youngest daughter, Eileen was the first of the girls to marry. In 1917 she married Ronald Yapp, who was in the Royal Naval Air Service at Ingoldmells Church. Her sister Gertrude was bridesmaid. In 1919, her elder sister Lily married Ronnie's father, Leonard Yapp, again at Ingoldmells Church and again with Gertrude as bridesmaid. John found himself with two sons in law, one the father of the other. All most confusing.

A sad event was the death of John's old friend, Major Henry Bowman, at Wainfleet in June 1915. He was interred at Wainfleet cemetery with full military honours '...a fitting tribute to an old warrior' as the local paper reported. He too had sons in the forces and his daughter, Emily, a close friend of the Dickens girls, helped to nurse the wounded with the Wainfleet V.A.D.

Annie's father, John Scholey Robinson, died in Sheffield in 1916. A picture of him taken in 1902 has survived. He was of Methodist stock. His father, Joseph Hiram Robinson, had been an important figure in the Methodist New Connexion. Joseph was a circuit minister in Sheffield when sent, in 1951, to Toronto as General Superintendent of the Canadian Mission. Several of his younger children went with him, but John Scholey Robinson, the eldest son, stayed behind in Sheffield and worked for a Sheffield tool making company. Annie was the fourth of John Scholey Robinson's children. Annie was her younger sister.

Picnic-time at Ingoldmells by the Sea

1919 - Ernie, Annie, A.N. Other, Agnes R, A.N.Other & Mabel

A few years after the war's end in 1918, all John's sons had left the army. Leonard returned to the Priory in 1919 but emigrated to Australia soon afterwards Ernest lived at nearby Hogsthorpe until he married in 1928. Mary and Gertrude left home to work as nurses. The two other sons, Charles and Arthur, were both married with children and lived in the south of England. John had been a witness at the wedding in Plumstead, London,  of Arthur, then a Corporal in the Royal Garrison Artillery, to Florence Ada, the daughter of a former Master Gunner.

The above photograph is one of many dating from 1919-21, which show the summer holiday visits to the Priory made by John's children, Annie's unmarried sister Agnes and their friends. They are a nostalgic record of the picnics and swimming parties of a bygone age. One of the friends of Agnes Robinson, then a headmistress in Sheffield, was a young teacher, Violet Mabel who married Ernest Dickens.

In 1921-22 John and Annie left the Priory and moved into a smaller house, Hillsborough Cottage, in Ingoldmells.  In 1922, John's elder brother George died in Feltham. Mr and Mrs John Dickens sent a handsome floral tribute for the funeral. 

In the next few years, John's health began to fail and he needed a wheel chair to get about. He died at home on 18 March 1927 from a stroke. His eldest daughter, Mary, was present at the death.

The Skegness Standard carried this notice:

'DICKENS: On March 18th at Ingoldmells after a long illness, Captain John Dickens, late RA and old 12th Brigade, died aged 80 years. Canadian papers please copy. Mrs Dickens and the Family thank all the friends who have so constantly cheered her husband in the long illness of suffering and for all the floral remembrances.'

John was buried in Ingoldmells churchyard and the grave still stands.


 Annie lived until 1937 when she died at the home of her sister Agnes Robinson in Sheffield, close to the Hillsborough Barracks where young Charles Henry Dickens had had his portrait painted nearly fifty years before and where Annie may or may not have first met John. She shares John's grave in Ingoldmells.

The last sixty years of John's life had been spent within sight of the sea; a Gunner by the sea.

John's Military Sons







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