Gnr. F. Deakin

Gnr. F. Deakin

896645 Gunner Harry Frank Deakin,
273 Battery, 69th (West Riding) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

49th (West Riding) Division insignia

Frank Deakin was born in Burmantofts at the end of 1920. His parents, Harry Deakin and Mary (May) Jowett had married there, in St Stephen’s Church, the previous year. At the time of their marriage, Harry Deakin was living in Windsor Street, which ran between York Road, and Accommodation Road, while May Jowett lived at 1 York Road, where her father, Frank, was the licensee of the original Woodpecker Inn.
Harry Deakin had served during the Great War with 1/7th Leeds Rifles. He went to France with the battalion in April 1915 and was wounded in September 1916, during the Battle of the Somme. He returned to the battalion after he recovered and was an Acting Sergeant by the time he was disembodied from Territorial Force service in March 1919. He married May six months later.
The Deakin family first appears on the electoral roll for Scholes in 1937, when Frank would have been 16, the middle son, George (Geoff), was 13, and their youngest son, Ronald was 5. They lived at Fairholm on Main Street, between Belle Vue Estate and the junction with Station Road.
When war was declared on 3rd September 1939, the government enacted the National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939. The terms of the Act enabled the government to conscript any medically fit man between the ages 18 – 41, unless they in an excepted category, for military service in any of the Armed Forces. Frank Deakin was working as a printer’s clerk, and so was not exempt from being called up.
49th Div Infantry training in Iceland 1940 ("Sheffield at War - a Pictorial Account 1939-45", by Clive Hardy, 1987)

Harry Deakin became a Gunner in the Royal Artillery, serving with 273 Battery in 69th (West Riding) Field Regiment, which was a Territorial regiment of Artillery in the 49th (West Riding) Division.

The Division deployed two infantry brigades to Norway on the ill-fated mission in April 1940 to re-capture the ports of Trondheim and Narvik from the Germans, but artillery support for the mission was drawn from other formations. After the disaster in Norway, the infantry brigades were evacuated and the division reorganised for a period in Scotland before deploying to Iceland, where it remained for two years. During its time in Iceland, the division forged a close link with the US Marines who were stationed there, and the US Marines adopted the Polar Bear insignia for themselves.

In his absence, May Deakin’s sister in law, Mary Jowett, known as Joan, and her three-year-old daughter, Valerie came to live in Scholes. Although the village is only 7 miles from the centre of Leeds, it would have been considered as being safer than where Joan and Valerie had been living, in the White Horse pub on Wellington Road, where her husband and father in law were the licensees. It stood close to the railway, and the engine sheds, and nearby factories may well have been thought of as targets for German bombers. As it turned out, the Luftwaffe did target the railways in Leeds, but their efforts were concentrated on the Marsh Lane goods yard complex at the other side of the city centre.

CWGC Headstone added to the Family Plot in Barwick

Frank Deakin died on 12th July 1941, of Acute Lymphatic Leukaemia in Seacroft Hospital, York Road, Leeds. At the time it was an emergency military hospital, as it had been during the Great War, but had been specially built at the turn of the 19th/20th century as an infectious diseases’ hospital, a role it retained until recent years. Because his disease would have progressed very quickly, and was, at the time, untreatable, it is likely that Frank Deakin was serving in Iceland when he first fell ill. He will have been evacuated from there to the UK, and transferred to Seacroft, as it was the closest military hospital to the family home.
His funeral was held at Scholes Church (now the Church Hall) on Wednesday 16 July 1941, followed by his burial in the churchyard at All Saints’ Church in Barwick. He was the first serviceman to buried in the churchyard during the Second World War.