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Gordon Leslie Dengate


Gordon Dengate

Gordon Dengate was born 15th July 1927 to Leslie and Florence Priscilla Dengate at the family home of 44 St Mary's Road, Hastings, Sussex. His older sister, Eveline Florence, born three years prior, recalls his birth: 'I do remember my brother, Gordon being born when I was three years old. We were still living in the same house and I remember taking a plate of wafer biscuits up to my mother to have with a cup of tea. I followed the midwife up the stairs--her name was Nurse Carpenter and she lived in Hughenden Road for years--I think she delivered all the babies in the area.'

Around 1929, the family moved across town to 110 Braybrooke Road. Eveline, Maisie and Gordon's first school was Holy Trinity in Braybrooke Terrace. According to Eveline, it was 'a church school, quite small and we were taken to Holy Trinity Church several times a year for special church services. I remember some days in the summer our mother meeting us and taking us to White Rock Gardens to play and sometimes to the beach. We were living in Braybrooke Road, then, which was near the school. The headmaster's name was Mr Apps and the only teacher I can recall was Mrs Cox. Also, when Maisie, Gordon and I attended Holy Trinity School we all went down with Scarlett Fever because some of the pupils had been sent back to school while they were still contagious; there was trouble with that, if I remember right. It was a serious disease and you had to go away to the isolation hospital at the MountPleasant end of Frederick Road and were kept isolated, not allowed visitors. We were there for several weeks I think and when we were getting better we were allowed to play in the grounds of the hospital. The illness was so serious that every room in the house had to be fumigated. The illness started with a sore throat and a rash on the face and body and swollen glands.'


Gordon Dengate in the garden at 3 Keppel Road


Gordon Dengate alighting from the family Morris Oxford


Florence Dengate with three of her four children: Maisie, Gordon and Eveline in their garden at 110 Braybrooke Road, Hastings

Lesie, Floss, Eveline, Maisie and Gordon Dengate

hover over to see a colourised version

When war was declared in September 1939, Hastings, being on the south east coast of England was in a precarious position. After the fall of France, the 'Phoney War' was over and, on the 21st July 1940, 3,000 children from various schools in Hastings were evacuated to safer areas (in theory) of the country. Gordon described his evacuation experience to me for my book, Hastings at War, where he said: 'I was evacuated with Hastings Central School to a lady and gentleman's house called Mr and Mrs Legg and they were really good. I remember her trying to teach me to talk properly and make me sound my vowels in the right way. Eventually she gave up and told my father she presumed it's the way we tall in Hastings! There were occasions they would borrow a bicycle for me and we'd all cycle over to Ware to visit my sister, Maisie. Being taken away from home like that, I don't ever remember being upset; life seemed quite interesting, quite an experience.'

Gordon returned to Hastings after he turned 14 to start work, initially assisting with the war still in action and helped his father, Leslie and his uncles, Stan and Cecil with their furniture removal business. He recalled the company being called to a house adjoining one, which had been flattened in Warrior Square after a bombing raid on 24th September 1942: 'We got called to Warrior Square and a bomb had fallen, and it was amazing how it had happened; it looked as if somebody had just taken a couple of houses out and there was just a gap there. We had to go in the next house and get the furniture out and the police or Air Raid Warden said to us that the staircase was alright, but whatever we did, not to lean on the wall, what was now the outer wall. It was a bit tricky going up there keeping away from it. I remember that on one of the landings on this outside wall was a big mirror, a massive great mirror, and it was still hanging there and it wasn't broken and yet the whole other side of the wall had gone.'

At the start of the flying-bomb era (in June 1944), Gordon wanted to chance his luck and go with his father on a furniture removal job to London to see the doodlebugs. He recalled, 'You used to do these things and didn't worry about it. I remember helping to carry a wardrobe down the staircase and I was at the top holding it and another fellow at the bottom, and a doodlebug came over and the engine cut out. The next thing you knew there was a terrific bang nearby, and I was standing there holding this wardrobe and I couldn't do anything about it! The thing came down nearby, but not too near to us.'

Click the links below to listen to Gordon in his own words speaking about his younger years, including joining the ATC and taking a flight in a WW1 Tiger Moth and also his application to join the RAF in 1945, being accepted as an RT operator. The audio recordings go on to talk about Gordon's time in the Air Force abroad.

1. Gordon Dengate Memories
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2. Gordon Dengate Memories
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3. Gordon Dengate Memories
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4. Gordon Dengate Memories
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5. Gordon Dengate Memories
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6. Gordon Dengate Memories
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7. Gordon Dengate Memories
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8. Gordon Dengate Memories
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9. Gordon Dengate Memories
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10. Gordon Dengate Memories
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11. Gordon Dengate Memories
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12. Gordon Dengate Memories
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13. Gordon Dengate Memories
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14. Gordon Dengate Memories
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Gordon's first employment outside of the family business was as an apprentice cabinet and coffin-maker, a job which he returned to after his stint in the RAF. When his employer retired, he handed the business over to Gordon.

Gordon took a lifelong active role in Salvation Army, being a member of the Hastings Citadel band. He was also very involved in Scouting and was a Group Scoutmaster and a member of the Salvation Army National Scout Council.

On the 29th June 1950, Gordon married Sheila Hills, a fellow Salvationist and also his second cousin. Like many in the family, they married at the Salvation Army Citadel in Hastings.

The marriage of Gordon Leslie Dengate and Sheila Kathleen Hills. 

Hover over the image for a 'who's who.'


Gordon and Sheila had four children, three boys and one girl. They remained in Hastings, raising their family there and continuing to attend the Salvation Army. Gordon continued to run his business, which gradually moved more into coffin-making and funeral directing. When he retired he sold the business to the Co-op.

In 2008, when Gordon's cousin, Norman Dengate organised a family reunion, Gordon, Sheila and some of their family attended. Click here for information about the Dengate Reunion 2008.

Sheila (holding the baby) and Gordon in the 1970s


1989 Blessing of the Sea, Hastings Old Town

Nathan Goodwin, Eveline Edwards, Doug Bines, Audrey Bines, Sheila and Gordon Dengate

Sadly, Gordon developed dementia in his old age, being cared for by Sheila up until his death on the 28th October 2017. His funeral took place at the Salvation Army Citadel, where he had worshipped his entire life.

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