The tragic tale of a 19-year-old Wimbledon student who died fighting in the Battle of the Somme has been penned in remembrance of its centenary.
Alison Quinlan used research from St. Mary’s Convent in Brentford to tell the story of Edward ‘Eddie’ Dean in her new book ‘Fragments of the Storm’.
Alison was researching for her MA in Religious History at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, when she unearthed record’s donated by Eddie’s family.
Alison said: “I want people to take away the pain of the war and how it affects the family. It is such a waste suffered by so many.
“People are covered by a blanket of grief, how do they cope? It is interesting that people turned to their faith.”
As well as research from archives at Brentford, Alison used research from the National Archives, Kew, & Royal Artillery Library in Woolwich and her own trips to France and Belgium to provide a detailed recollection of Eddie’s military training and wartime action in Flanders, Le Bizet and the Somme.
Eddie’s father died of cancer while he was serving as an officer and so Eddie returned home to attend the funeral — just six months before he was cut down in battle in September 1916.
The final chapters of Alison’s book focus on Eddie’s death and the struggles of his recently-widowed mother to come to terms with her loss.
Alison found poems written by Eddie’s mother, expressing both her grief and strong Catholic faith.
“It really was a labour of love. I grew very fond of him,” Alison added.
Eddie studied at Wimbledon college as a teenager after attending St. Benedict’s Abbey School where he lived with his family in Ealing since he was eight.
Kenneth Campbell, Eddie’s nephew, said: “I am optimistic that the book, a sympathetic journey through my Uncle Eddie’s early years, army career and death, will attract the many readers it deserves.”
Eddie is the great-nephew of the founder of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God Convent in Brentford, Frances Taylor (Mother Magdalen) — recently declared ‘Venerable’ by Pope Francis.
Sister Mary Whelan, congregational leader, SMG, said: “On behalf of The Sisters of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God I am extremely proud that we are so closely connected with Alison’s work.
“Alison is publishing her book at a particularly poignant time as we remember the centenary of the First World War.
“It is only right that Eddie Dean is remembered, and our heartfelt gratitude goes to Alison for telling this story.”
Copies of ‘Fragments of the Storm’ are available from the Ealing Local History Centre, or from the SMG Central Congregational Archive at Brentford.