It is important we never forget the sacrifices made to protect our everyday freedoms. Based on his own fragmentary notes and writings, Donald Dean VC, or 'Dogsbody Dean' as he was occasionally wont to call himself, as an often illuminating study of one man's journey through two world wars, though about his most notable action which he earned the Victoria Cross he is frustratingly reticent.
Daly History Blog "The Germans are here, goodbye! Why you can trust BBC News. Former Rainham Mark Grammar School pupil, Terry, 40, who has published ten other military history books, said editing Dean's memoirs had been a moving and inspiring project. A veteran of the First World War, where he was awarded VC for his actions in holding an isolated trench, Donald Dean inspired his command with his own contempt of danger, which runs through this account of his life. It is his attitude towards this multinational force that makes the book so compelling. Toggle navigation. It shelled us with a light gun and caused us several casualties and then, after a pause for consideration, finding that we only had rifles, it proceeded to climb very slowly over our block.
Like many of his generation, he joined up under age and was fortunate enough to survive getting 'in the way of bust of machine gun fire' that might have ended his 'matrimonial prospects' but for a well-placed hip flask. Aside from a action at Boulogne, where his leadership of a pioneer battalion was deserving a recognition, his second world war career was more hard-graft than heroic but no less interesting fir all that.
Joining the Artists Rifles on the outbreak of war he was underage , Dean was soon identified as an officer candidate and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Queens Royal West Kent Regiment.
Promoted to Captain by , he was severely wounded in an action at Passchendaele, where he led a Platoon in defending an outpost for days against a vastly superior enemy. Modestly, he makes virtually no mention in his memoirs of his VC. Dean was recalled to service immediately prior to the start of the Second World War, when the British Army was expanding after the Munich Crisis.
Dean was originally given command of a Battalion of the Buffs, in the process raising several more Battalions. Upon the outbreak of war, however, his divisional commander removed him from command, with the explanation that he did not want his division to be commanded by territorials. Unfortunately I have not been able to trace the Major-General in question.
Passed over for command in his Regiment, Dean was transferred to take command units in the Pioneer Corps. Dean was strongly warned never to mention the fiasco. The Pioneer Corps was traditionally a dumping ground for men who were deemed not clever enough or fit enough for the rest of the Army, and unwanted officers such as Dean, but as so often in British military history the Pioneers punched well above their expectations.
After returning from Dunkirk Dean and his Pioneers defended a section of the British coastline, before he left to take command of the Pioneer element of one of the least known operations in the Second World War — the invasion of Madagascar.
Held by the Vichy French, a British task force secured the island as a safety measure against capture by the Japanese. Once ashore on Madagascar, Dean had an extremely complicated task in leading a rag-tag labour force, including natives and other various contingents. Commanding such diverse units must have called upon leadership and people skills in spades. After Madagascar Dean was transferred to command Pioneer forces in Italy.
There once again Dean was in command of a polyglot collection of men, including British, Canadian, South African, Polish, native Africans and Italians to name but a few. Not a bad record at all for someone deemed not good enough to command an infantry Battalion in We can only wonder what the Army missed out on thanks to that ridiculous decision.
He gives some valuable insights into leadership in war, and some very useful anecdotes about the human experience of war. The story is told in a new book edited by Rainham author Terry Crowdy, which tells of heroic Dean's incredible feats in the First and then Second World War. The son of a Sittingbourne brick maker, Dean lied about his age to enlist in He worked his way up from Private to acting Captain in the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment before being severely wounded by machine gun fire at Passchendaele in After he recovered from his wounds, Dean returned to France in where he won his VC near the city of Lens.
He had been ordered to hold a captured and isolated trench where Dean fought off five German counterattacks, personally killing four Germans in hand-to-hand fighting. His citation read: "Throughout the period Lieutenant Dean inspired his command with his own contempt of danger, and all fought with the greatest bravery. Seventy years on, the account tells how Dean led a group of poorly armed Pioneer troops to the port of Boulogne. When the order to evacuate Boulogne was given, the Pioneers were refused entry onto ships earmarked for the Guards and were left behind.
Dean ordered the Guardsmen to leave their rifles, so his men might at least continue the fight. In the middle of the night Dean signalled a passing British destroyer for help.
Under enemy fire and with the ship overloaded with survivors, Dean was the last man up the gangplank out of Boulogne. It is clear that Dean made sure that he understood the individual requirements of each contingent, from their diets to the best way to handle discipline, and took pride in getting good work out of every different group.
Dean's attitude to his men combines with the very varied nature of their work to make this second part of the book a fascinating read. Dean's men were responsible for tasks including road and airfield construction, running prisoner of war camps and carrying supplies to the front line probably the most dangerous duty.
Early in his pioneer career he was also caught up in the retreat to Boulogne, where his men had to be issued with rifles and formed part of the rear guard. This is an excellent book, and provides a valuable look at the work of one of the unsung part of the Allied army. Author: Donald Dean, ed.
Colonel Dean took part in the Sicily landings in and later served in Italy. He was twice mentioned in despatches and retired after the war with the rank of full Colonel and an OBE. In , his grave was refurbished and cleaned and this was organised by his daughter, Susan Bavin.
Sittingbourne War Memorial. Courtesy of Mark Sanders. St George's Church, Ypres.
Freemasons Memorial, London Brian Drummond.