STEPHEN GABRIEL DADD was born in Lewisham on 17 May 1894, the youngest son of Stephen Thomas Dadd and his wife Eva. His father was a painter. The family lived in St Margaret’s Road, Brockley and then in Sunderland Road, Forest Hill. Stephen was educated at Aske’s Hatcham School in New Cross, going on to pursue his artistic inclinations at Goldsmiths. He was member of the Lewisham Swimming Club, winning the London 100 yards championship for under 16s in 1910, the Lewisham Swimming Club 1,000 yards river race in 1911, and on several occasions the old Askean quarter-mile championship. He was also a cross-country runner and a member of Blackheath Harriers.
His interest was in sculpture, for which he showed considerable talent, having a bust of his sister Elfrida accepted by the Royal Academy in 1912 when he was still only seventeen. He had a great interest in animals and birds and spent time studying and drawing them at Regent’s Park. In 1914 he exhibited an animal group entitled “True Foes Once Met Are Joined Until Death” - an Indian elephant crushing a tiger which is vainly clawing at its huge opponent. In 1915 he exhibited another bust while the work posthumously exhibited at the Academy in 1916 took him back to nature with a group entitled “Lions and Prey”.
He earned a living as an art teacher but in October 1914 joined the Royal Naval Division. The RND was formed in August 1914 at Crystal Palace and was largely made up of seamen reservists who were surplus to the requirements of the Navy’s ships. Although retaining many naval traditions (they kept their naval ranks and “went ashore” from barracks) they wore khaki and fought as infantry in eight battalions named after famous naval heroes. Stephen Dadd was posted to Benbow Battalion in March 1915 and sailed for the Dardanelles on 17 May 1915, his 21st birthday. Once there he was transferred to Anson Battalion.
The Gallipoli campaign, vigorously promoted by Winston Churchill, sought to capture Constantinople and knock Turkey out of the war. In fact the Allied navies were unable to force the Dardanelles because of minefields and Turkish shore batteries while the British, French and ANZAC troops who were put ashore on the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915 found that ‘Johnny Turk’ was a brave and resourceful defender of his homeland. The campaign lasted all through the blistering heat of the Turkish summer and into the freezing winter with little to show for the sacrifice of over 40,000 Allied dead.
Stephen Dadd, by now a Leading Seaman, was killed on 5 July 1915. His petty officer wrote to the family " He was in my platoon and liked and respected by all, both his seniors and those he was in charge of. He was killed yesterday morning about 7am and was quietly buried in the afternoon.” Lieutenant the Honourable K R Dundas gives a more dramatic account of that morning - “.. about 7am I saw the whole of our right (flank) bolting. Things looked pretty bad but we charged out, reinforced the right and drove off the Turks with heavy losses.”
He was the son of Stephen Thomas Dadd and his wife Eva. His father was a painter who specialised in pictures of dogs. The family lived in St Margaret’s Road, Brockley and then in Sunderland Road, Forest Hill. His brother Edmund was killed in 1916 whilst serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
Contributed By: Andy Pepper
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