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Leslie Dengate



Leslie Dengate was born 14 September 1899 in Hastings, East Sussex to Ernest Alfred and Agnes Lucy Dengate.  He was raised in Hastings, spending his early years living at 69 Manor Road with his parents and brothers and sisters.  From an early age he attended the Salvation Army Citadel in Hastings. At some point (possibly prior or just after WW1) in Eastbourne, Leslie met a young lady called Dorothy Naomi Homewood. They pair went out together for a while, but then separated.

Leslie joined the Royal Navy in WW1, his first date of service being the 15th October 1917. He was stationed predominantly at Royal Naval Air Station Battersea, situated to what is now the power station on Kirtling Street. Leslie worked here, in what must have been a very interesting job, as a 'motor mechanic and fitter' in this experimental R&D facility, where special weapons were designed and tested. He remained with the RNAS until the 31st March 1918, automatically becoming part of the RAF upon its inauguration the following day. He remained at Battersea until 1919, when he was transferred to Eastbourne before being discharged from the RAF.

Leslie Dengate's WW1 war records.
Click to download a larger version
Leslie Dengate c.1917

Leslie Dengate's WW1 war medals

left: British War Medal

centre: British Defence Medal (for his WW2 civilian work)

Right: Special Constabulary Long Service Medal (WW2)

Whilst in Battersea, Leslie formed a Life Saving Scout Troop and was appointed Leader of Battersea 1 Corps.  He later formed a Scout Troop in Hastings, again becoming leader.

Whilst stationed in Battersea, Leslie attended the Salvation Army corps there, where he met Florence Priscilla Smith. 

Leslie and Florence married on the 2nd June 1922 in the Salvation Army, Battersea, moving to Hastings soon after where they had four children: Eveline Florence, Maisie Irene, Gordon and Dorothy Elizabeth. Both Leslie and Florence Priscilla were very active members of the Salvation Army, attending the Citadel Corps in St Andrew's Square in Hastings. Leslie was a founder-member of the Young People's Band at Hastings Citadel, himself being a band-member from 1915. He was appointed Corps Secretary in 1924, then Corps Treasurer in 1930. He also held the positions of Deputy-Bandmaster and in 1936 was commissioned Band Sergeant.  Whilst the band and songster leader were serving in the armed forces during 1944 and 1945, Leslie took over the reigns of both until the leaders returned. He then returned to the role of Corps Secretary until 1950 when he was commissioned Corps Sergeant-Major. 

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Kent & Sussex Courier, 12th December 1924

Leslie's scrape with the law!


The Dengate familyc.1937

Left to right: Gordon, Maisie, Eveline, Florence, Leslie

Leslie worked with his father, Ernest Alfred, and after his father's retirement, with his two brothers Stan and Cecil in the family furniture and removals shop in Hastings. The Dengate shop in Cornwallis Street opened in the 1930s, selling second hand furniture. It was such a success that larger premises were sought, so they bought a shop in Queen's Road, Hastings from Messrs Staite and Co. Ltd for the sum of £3,700 on the 17 February 1930. The cost of the premises was £3,000 for the shop and depository in Waterworks Road and £700 for 'the goodwill of the business of furniture storers carried on therein', signed by Ernest Alfred and his sons Cecil, Stan and Leslie Dengate. The three brothers divided responsibilities; Cecil was in charge of shop trading, Leslie was in charge of the removal side and Stanley was in charge of the furniture side.


Leslie to the right of the Dengate van in Waldergrave Street, Hastings


The Queen's Road shop was gutted by a mysterious fire in 1938, but was later rebuilt and refurbished. The business was sold in 1948 to the Co-op due to high taxation. 

During the Second World War, Leslie continued to work full-time as a furniture-remover for Dengate's and as a Sub Inspector for the Special Constabulary, achieving around 80 duties each year 1940-1944. Leslie also worked for the Special Constabulary, progressing through the ranks of Sub Inspector (1940), Inspector (1947), Chief Inspector (1951) and Deputy Commandant (1960). The Mayor of Hastings, commenting in 'The Musician' said that Deputy Commandant Dengate had, 'set an example of public service which he hoped many people in the town would follow'.  

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1939 Register entry showing Leslie, Florence and eldest daughter, Eveline at 3 Keppel Road, Hastings. Leslie is noted in the right-hand column as a Special Constable


Leslie Dengate in his Special Constable uniform

During her pregnancy with their youngest daughter, Dorothy, a weakness in Florence's heart was discovered after she suffered several heart attacks. Sadly for the family, Florence died on the 11th January 1940 at the age of 43, leaving Leslie to raise four young children alone. 

Following a service at the Salvation Army Citadel, Hastings on the 15th January, Florence was buried in Hastings Cemetery. 


Soon after Floss's death, Leslie's second cousin, Dorothy Flora Sainsbury (nee Gutsell) offered to move into the family home to help look after the children, notably Dorothy who was still a young baby. Leslie accepted the offer and Dorothy, known as Dolly, moved in to 3 Keppel Road.


Three years later, Leslie married Dolly on the 26 December 1943 in the Salvation Army Citadel, Hastings. Dorothy was given away by her brother, Leonard Gutsell. The bridesmaids were Eveline, Maisie and Dorothy Dengate and Margaret Gutsell. The best man was Leslie's brother Cecil Dengate.  The couple honeymooned in Croydon and St Ives.

Leslie Dengate's marriage to Dorothy Sainsbury

Leslie Dengate (right of photo)


Dorothy & Dorothy

Leslie and Dolly lived in Keppel Road for several years, followed, during the war by 33 Godwin Road and then 63 Downs Road. The pair continued their dedication to the Salvation Army, and Leslie to his work and Special Constabulary duties.  

Leslie also worked as a Liberal Councillor for the town, being voted in as Councillor for the Holy Trinity Ward of Hastings. Leslie polled 1,152 votes compared to his Conservative rival of 806 votes.


Dorothy Flora Dengate


Dorothy Flora Dengate's memorial stone in Hastings Cemetery

After suffering from mental health issues for a number of years, Leslie's second wife, Dorothy Flora Dengate committed suicide at the age of 61 on Tuesday 15th February 1966. She died at their home in 63 Downs Road, Hastings by filling the lounge chimney with newspaper and switching on the gas to the fire. She had previously suffered depression, for which she had undergone an operation in 1964, and undergone treatment for a nervous condition. Leslie had left home at 2.20pm, returning to find her dead at 6.40pm.  Her funeral was held at the Salvation Army Citadel, Hastings on Monday 21 February 1966 at 2pm, conducted by General Wilfred Kitching, CBE (Retired).  Dorothy was cremated at Hastings Cemetery.

After Dorothy's death, Leslie met up again with Dorothy Naomi Homewood, whom he had been out with in their younger years prior to WW1. She was a widow, having lost her husband, Albert Hollands in 1949. The pair married on Saturday 18th March 1967 at The Salvation Army Citadel in Eastbourne, in the presence of their families and many members of the Hastings and Eastbourne Citadels. The ceremony was conducted by Major Leslie Phillips at 11.15am. The wedding was shown on ITV Southern News, but unfortuantely the footage no longer exits. Leslie and Dorothy spent their honeymoon in the West country.


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

On the 4th June 1970, Leslie and Dorothy attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace in his capacity as a town alderman, along with the Mayor (Councillor E. P. Nye) and Mayoress of Hastings. Leslie held the position of Corps Sergeant Major from 1949 until retirement in May 1970.  His retirement was honoured with a service and musical presentation in which Eastbourne Songsters, Hastings Citadel Songsters and band performed. At the same time Dorothy transferred from being a Songster to Songster reserve. She conducted the Eastbourne Songsters for a number of their pieces at the service. Leslie told the Hastings & St Leonards Observer at the time, 'There is one aspect of my service at the Salvation Army in Hastings which helps to sweeten my retirement and gives me much pleasure and that is that my family and most of my grandchildren are members, making them fourth or fifth generations of Dengates serving in Hastings.  While I am resigning my position as Corps Sergeant-Major, I shall continue as an active Salvationist, and my wife will also carry on her work in the Home League.  I was born in Hastings, and my whole life, both business and social, has been spent here.  I have no intention of leaving in retirement to live elsewhere.'

On the 26th January 1974, Leslie was confirmed as one of three new alderman on Hastings Town Council. 


Leslie, Dorothy Naomi Dengate and the mayor and mayoress of Hastings ready for Buckingham Palace

Leslie and Dorothy Naomi Dengate in a family cine film

Leslie's third wife, Dorothy Naomi Dengate died 14 September 1979. Her funeral was conducted by Leslie's niece, Brigadier Dora Chandler on the 21st September 1979 at the Hastings Citadel Salvation Army, followed by interment at Ocklynge Cemetery, Eastbourne, East Sussex with her first husband, Albert Hollands.

Dorothy Naomi Dengate's grave, 2003

For the last few years of his life, Leslie lived in a bungalow in 195 Downs Road, Hastings. He died 16th January 1984, aged 84 years in The Laurels nursing home, Old London Road, Hastings. He was cremated at Hastings Crematorium on the 24th January 1984 following a service at Hastings Salvation Army Citadel and was interred with his first wife, Florence Priscilla Dengate in Hastings Cemetery.  Also interred in the grave are the cremated remains of Florence Priscilla's sister, Ellen Amelia Smith who was interred there on the 7th November 1983.


The bench, dedicated to Leslie Dengate, overlooking the bowling green in Alexandra Park, Hastings, where Leslie was president for a number of years

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Grateful thanks to Leslie's children, Eveline Dengate, Maisie Dengate, Gordon Dengate and Dorothy Dengate for their help in writing this biography

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