From 1912 onwards, David Dilley was an employee of the Co-operative Wholesale Society’s cocoa works in Luton, and was reported to have been much esteemed among his fellow workers at the factory. He later enlisted in the army, and became a private in the Bedfordshire Regiment, 1st Battalion after doing a brief stint in the Bedfordshire Yeomanry. After he had enlisted in the army, Dilley was dispatched to the Western Front to fight in France.
Unfortunately, on 23 April 1917 Dilley was killed in action during a campaign in France. He and another soldier had been guarding a hole which had been made by a German shell exploding upon striking the ground. However, the site was struck by a second shell during a bombardment, and Dilley was killed instantly in the blast. The soldier who had been in the shell hole with him at the time the second shell struck had survived the attack, and said afterwards that Dilley had fought like a good soldier right to the end.
Co-operative News, 2 June 1917, page 541.
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.