Moseley's (Borough) Bakery, established in the 1870s by William Moseley, moved into new premises in Jacob Street, Accrington in 1894. The building continues to stand today, though it is now occupied by North Lancs Training Group Ltd.
Among those employed at the bakery in the first decade of the twentieth century were brothers Bob and Kerr Dean. At the time of the 1911 Census, 22-year-old Kerr was still living with his parents, Fred and Ellen, at their home of 43 William Street; 26-year-old Bob had moved into a boarding house close to the bakery, and four months later would marry Annie Smith at All Saints' Church, Clayton-le-Moors.
Whereas Bob was apparently settled in Accrington, Kerr had other ambitions, emigrating on 27th December 1913 to Canada on board the Empress of Ireland bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia from Liverpool.
Barely seven months after Kerr had arrived in Canada, the world was at war. Just two weeks later, he enlisted into the Canadian 94th Regiment (Argyle Highlanders). Little more than another month had passed before his elder brother, Bob, joined the Accrington Pals on 17th September. Kerr transferred to the mining section of 25th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force on 12th February 1915, and arrived in England with his unit on 29th May. Before the 25th Battalion moved to France in mid-September, Kerr found time to marry an Accrington lass, 25-year-old Jane Ann Coupe. In December, Kerr's mining section was absorbed into No.3 Tunnelling Company of the Canadian Engineers.
Back at the Borough Bakery, Will Pilkington, a nephew of William Moseley, kept in touch with former employees who had joined up, even sending food parcels to those at the front. The extended length of the Pals' training in Britain had been a source of frustration for the men, exacerbated by remarks from some on the outside that questioned when the battalion would ever see action. There is a sense of this in a letter written by Kerr to Will shortly after the Pals finally embarked late in December 1915: "Well, I suppose the Accrington Pals have gone out to do their little bit. With the training they had they ought to eat the Germans." Kerr himself was to lead a charmed life in the months to come, as he described to Will in a letter dated 11th March 1916:
"I had a lucky one yesterday. There was a shell bursted about six feet from me and covered me with mud. I was having a smoke at the time but I still hung on to the old clay pipe and didn't get a scratch. I also have a German bullet in my pocket that struck a sandbag about three inches from me. So I am having some lucky ones."
Kerr had written just two days after the Pals had disembarked at Marseilles following their short time in Egypt. On 1st July 1916, Bob went into action with the battalion at Serre; ten days later, he wrote to Will from the auxiliary hospital at Horton Hall in Chipping Sodbury:
"Just a few lines to say I have landed here with a Blighty one, we started the big Push on the 1st, my God it was a morning, we started the Charge at 7-30, and in two hours time there seemed only Wounded and Dead, we lost a lot of the poor Lads. I was 14 hours in it before I could get to safety, I was Buried 3 times by Shells and Shot in the Back, I have had an Operation and had it taken out, and I am going on grand..."
Bob recovered from his wounds and was posted back to France where he joined the East Lancashire's 7th Battalion. On 7th June 1917, the battalion took part in the successful assault of the Messines Ridge. Bob was severely wounded in the attack and, although his family was initially given hope that he would survive, he died in hospital at Le Tréport on 2nd July.
Kerr was fortunate to survive the war without being wounded, and returned to Canada on the Carmania, reaching Halifax on 20th May 1919. His later life remains shrouded in mystery: a Kerr Dean of about the right age emigrated from Canada to the United States in the early 1920s, settling in Massachusetts; yet the official records from this time onwards show him to have been born in Glasgow, Scotland and to have a Canadian-born wife named Madeleine.
© Andrew C Jackson 2016
Compiled with the generous help of Niall MacFadyen, and from Records of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, "A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Accrington" by Mike Rothwell (1978), and the Accrington Observer & Times of 7th July 1917.