Percy John Dexter was born in Birmingham in 1889. Son of William Herbert Dexter (b.1862 – d.1919) and Betsy Chinn (b.c1858 – d. 1890). Both of whom were of Coventry. Two older brothers, also born in Birmingham, were Herbert (b.1885 – d.1954) and Frederick William (b.1887 – d.1967). After the death of Percy’s mother Betsy, his father moved to Rugby in 1892 and married Sarah Ann Franklin of Dunchurch. There were at least a further seven siblings, all born in Rugby. Evelyn (b.c1894, Ethel Lilian (b.1896 – d.1962), Violet (b.1897), Grace Ellen (b.1898), Winifred (b.1901), Gladys (b.1902) and Edith Emily (b.1908). The first two brothers both returned to Coventry to live, work and die. His father – William H. – was joiner and carpenter throughout his life and freeman of the City of Coventry. He had worked for both the major building firms in Rugby, Parnell and Linnell, and was an active trades unionist and co-operator.
Percy’s trade was a painter and house decorator and before the start of the War he had joined with his father in a business partnership. He was secretary of the New Bilton Cricket Club and was also a well-known footballer. In 1911 Percy married in Rugby, Beatrice Louisa Ward, from Norfolk (b.1887 – d.1981). A son, Maurice William, was born 14 October, 1912, in Rugby, he died in 1993. At the time Percy died his wife lived at Lawford Road, New Bilton.
Percy attested under the ‘Derby’ scheme, and joined the Army in August 1916. He became a Gunner in the 219th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. The 219th S.B. arrived in France on 2 December, 1916. During the spring of 1917 it had moved from active duty in the Arras area (Bouvigny Wood, Noulette), then North to Bethune for rest (mid.May). By 12 June they arrived at St. Sylvestre Cappelle, moving to the Belgian coast at St. Idesbald three days later. On 21 June two of their four howizters were installed in the sand dunes at Nieuport, close to the front-line. Other Siege Batteries were in the area, including at Nieuport dunes, the 227th, 268th 2000m away at Ramscappelle and 330th at Dominion Farm (Naval Seige Gun H.Q.), and nearby during July included 325th, 133rd, 94th and several others.
There was a frequent bombardment of the enemy, besides the test firings to calibrate for range. Enemy targets include hostile batteries, machine gun emplacements, trench and wire entanglements disruption, road, houses, etc. Aeroplane registration of targets (by wireless) was a regular feature. All direction of fire was by reference to a standard grid system on local maps.
Percy J Dexter was killed in action on the 10 July, 1917. Two comrades died the same day, Gnr. Frederick William Mason Baker and Gnr. Wilfred James Slade. All were buried at Coxyde Military Cemetery. 117 men of the R.G.A. are buried in this cemetery. The majority died in July, August and September of 1917.
On 10 July, 1917, there were 867 Commonwealth deaths world-wide, 121 buried in France, 611 buried in Flanders.
On 31 July, 1917, began the third battle of Ypres. Total Commonwealth deaths in one day – over 6,000.
Coxyde is located adjacent to St. Idesbald, and is within 8000m of the areas mentioned. The cemetery was begun by French troops, but the area was defended by the British from June to December 1917, and now contains 1,507 Commonwealth burials of the First World War. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Percy John Dexter is remembered on the Rugby Town Memorial and New Bilton (Croop Hill Cemetery) Memorial.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM