Scars of War reading 8

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018, while most of the research for this  was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum this piece was researched by Dr. B. Blades and we are very grateful to him for allowing us to publish this wonderful story.

The Olympian

In early October 2018, I visited the small village of Havrincourt, in the Pas-de-Calais in Northern France. An area rarely visited – even by modern battle field tourists to the Western Front – unlike the killing fields of the Somme some 20 miles to the south west, and Ypres 50 miles to the north.

Passing through the village, down a muddy track next to Havrincourt Wood, then along a rough grass path, and then in front of me was one of the smaller Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) military cemeteries: Grand Ravine Cemetery. Remote, surrounded by trees and ploughed fields, and disturbingly tranquil, Grand Ravine is beautifully kept, as are all are all of the graveyards, maintained by an army of CWGC gardeners and stonemasons.

Grand Ravine Cemetery

I had come to pay my respects to a man whose life and career I have been researching for nearly two decades. I found the headstone within a few seconds, and stood in silence. I took the all-important image of a memorial to one of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who had been killed in the Great War of 1914-19.

CWGC register for Grand Ravine


Before leaving the cemetery, I opened the small metal box containing the Visitors Book and Cemetery Register. The Visitors Book had not been signed for some five weeks. To my amazement, the previous entry referred to the very same man I had come to find, and was signed by a man with an identical surname to his. During the recent school summer holiday, members of the Dines family had travelled from their home in Wales to visit the grave of their great (and great-great) uncle Joseph. Someone they had never known in person, but who was clearly of great importance in this particular family’s sense of who they were and had been.

I then opened the Registry folder, and there amongst the sheets of many names of those interred in the plots around me, was an A4-size glossy photograph of the man himself in his full kit. He was not, however, in his military uniform. Instead, Joseph Dines was wearing the black socks, blue shorts, and white shirt of a footballer. On his chest, the three lions. On his head, his first international cap – for England.

Joseph Dines – image from

Joseph Dines is but one example of the myriad faces of war. All too often, such faces appear one-dimensional, stereotyped, and occasionally caricatured; the product of our inability to comprehend the scale and complexity of the conflict and its associated human suffering. It may be obvious – or even trite – to say that the 138 men buried at Grand Ravine alongside Joe Dines were more than simply names and numbers. Their records tell us – if we care to look – that, just like us, each individual wore myriad faces. Each man was far more than simply an inscription on a memorial, with its detail of name, rank, unit and age. To their families they were sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, uncles, cousins. In employment, they were makers and service providers, work colleagues, and friends. In their local communities, citizens, parishioners, club members, teammates.


Born 12 April 1886 in King’s Lynn to Mr Frank and Mrs Josephine Dines, Joe was the youngest of four sons, all of whom served their country during the Great war. The family lived at 4 Whitefriars Terrace, as a plaque still on the wall of the house today testifies. Joe’s early schooling took place at All Saints National School in Lynn. According to the 1901 Census, the 15-year-old Joe had by then become a Monitor – the first step on the ladder to a career in teaching for the bright working-class boys and girls of the time. He then became a pupil teacher in nearby Hunstanton before moving to Peterborough in 1908 to study for more formal teaching qualifications at St Peter’s College. In 1910 he returned to his home town to teach at St Margaret’s Church of England School. He later left Lynn to live in South Woodford, near London, having secured a teaching post at Highlands School in Ilford.

Joseph Dines the teacher was also a noted footballer. He combined a full-time teaching career with part-time and high-level sporting activity.

He played for his local teams – Lynn All Saints and Lynn United – before signing for King’s Lynn FC, where he made his debut against Peterborough Loco in 1904 and starred in their 1906 FA Cup match against Aston Villa. In 1906 he received his county call up and was a member of the victorious Norfolk team in the Southern Counties Championship. He captained the St Peter’s College team, and also played for Norwich City Reserves. On moving to the outskirts of London, he played for renowned amateur clubs Ilford FC – coincidently at their Lynn Road ground – and for Walthamstow Avenue. In a bygone age when professional teams would call upon amateur players to fill gaps caused by injuries, Joe Dines played the occasional game for Woolwich Arsenal Reserves, Millwall, Queen’s Park Rangers and, on one occasion in 1912, for Liverpool when they beat Chelsea 2-1. Known to all as the ‘Smiling Footballer’, he was described in the press at the time as being ‘a thoughtful young man, commanding half-back, and master of the art of dribbling’.

Joe resisted all inducements to agree professional terms, preferring the security of a teaching career combined with the amateur game. He won his first England Amateur Team cap – the cap in the photograph at Grand Ravine Military Cemetery – in 1910 when England beat Wales. He made a further 26 appearances for England in the years before the war. The most important of which were won as part of the England Association Football side at the Stockholm Olympic Games in 1912. Joe played in every England game, including the 4-2 England victory over Denmark in the final watched by 25,000 spectators.

England Football team, including Joesph Dines (back row 2nd from left), at the Stockholm Olympic where they won the Gold medal. Image from wikicommons

Joe did not forget his home town roots, and was still making the occasional appearance for Lynn Town in that final football season of 1913-14 before the war disrupted everything.

Joe, by now a married man – having wed Ethel Burgoyne, also from Lynn, in St Margaret’s Church in December 1913 – was 28 when the war began. Joe did not join the initial rush to the colours. Instead, it was not until November 1915 that he enlisted as a private in the Army Ordnance Corps where he was deployed as a storeman. Just over year later, in December 1916, he applied for a commission but was rejected. Then in June 1917 he transferred to the 6th Battalion Middlesex Regiment stationed at Chatham, followed by a posting to Grantham to train on one of the new weapons of industrialised warfare – the tank. He applied for a commission in the Tank Corps, but once again was unsuccessful.

In June 1918, however, Joseph – by this time Sergeant – Dines was commissioned into the 13th Battalion (The King’s) Liverpool Regiment. On 16 September 1918 his unit was posted to France to take part in the final ‘Hundred Days’, in which the Allied armies broke the stalemate of the earlier trench warfare and pushed the Germans back beyond the battlefields of the Somme. Just eleven days after arriving on Western Front, Joe’s battalion was in the front line, near the village of Havrincourt, facing the massive and supposedly impregnable German defensive structures of the Hindenburg Line. On Friday 27 September 1918, the King’s Liverpool battalion broke through the enemy lines, taking 600 prisoners. But at great cost, the battalion losing 6 Officers and 125 other ranks. Second Lieutenant Joseph Dines was amongst the casualties, killed in action, leading his men in attacking enemy machine guns. He was 32-years-old.

Family man, student, teacher, footballer, Olympian, soldier, commissioned officer and one of The Fallen of the Great War – a man whose name is carved on numerous memorials and whose story is shared by many within and beyond King’s Lynn – today, we remember Joseph Dines.

Dr Barry Blades
November 2018

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