Leading Fireman Herbert 'Bert' James Dewey was killed in the early hours of 5 May 1942 by enemy action, aged 40.

 

Herbert was born in 1901 to his parents James and Lydia who owned a grocery in Frances Avenue, Portsmouth. The Kelly's Directory of 1915 evidences that the family had relocated to the Isle of Wight, operating a boarding house at 34 Nelson Street, Ryde. 

The Kelly's entry of 1927 shows that the family were now running the popular Oakdene Guest House in St John's Road, Ryde. It was here that the musically gifted Herbert taught others to play the violin.

By this time the 'Bert' Dewey Orchestra was a popular addition to any local or regional entertainment bill. By the mid to late 1930's Bert had made a firm friendship with Colin Henry Weeks, younger son of the town's Mayor, their friendship being based on a shared love of music. 

It is believed that Bert was among the initial volunteers for the town's company of the Auxiliary Fire Service who were recruited and photographed in the garden of the London Hotel in October 1938. 

As a part-time member of the AFS Bert's time was never spare, meeting his musical schedules and helping his mother Lydia to manage Oakdene since the death of his father in 1936. 

On the night of 4/5 May 1942 Bert, like all other Island civil defence workers, was despatched to the north of the Island to operate whilst under bombardment during what became known as the Cowes Blitz. There he was joined by his young friend Colin, by now also a fireman. Around 04:00 hours in the morning of the 5th the pair were ordered to take a short rest. They withdrew to the WVS canteen van at the corner of East Cowes' Minerva Road and Clarence Road.

As they took the opportunity for a cuppa and sandwich the second wave of Luftwaffe bombers appeared overhead. Bert, Colin and Mrs Hann of the WVS were killed by one of the first bombs of this second wave which made a direct hit on the spot where they stood.

Rest in peace Leading Fireman Dewey.