20 October 2008

The grave and headstone over the burial plot of Colonel Donald Dean VC, OBE, 8th Bn, Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment, has recently been refurbished and cleaned in St John the Baptist Churchyard, Tunstall, Kent. The decision to carry out maintenance on the grave and to oversee the task of cleaning the stone was taken by Susan Bavin, the daughter of Donald Dean.

Dean's grave:
before and after

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 14 December 1918 ], Near Lens, France, 24-26 September 1918, Lieutenant Donald John Dean, 8th Bn, Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery, skilful command and devotion to duty during the period 24th to 26th September 1918, when holding, with his platoon, an advance post established in a newly-captured enemy trench north-west of Lens.

The left flank of the position was insecure, and the post, when taken over on the night of the 24th September, was ill-prepared for defence. Shortly after the post was occupied the enemy attempted, without success, to recapture it. Under heavy machine-gun fire consolidation was continued, and after midnight another determined enemy attack was driven off.

Throughout the night Lieutenant Dean worked unceasingly with his men, and about 6am on the 25th September a resolute enemy attack, supported by heavy shell and trench-mortar fire, developed. Again, owing to the masterly handling of his command, Lieutenant Dean repulsed the attack, causing heavy enemy casualties.

Throughout the 25th and the night of the 25th / 26th September consolidation was continued under heavy fire, which culminated in intense artillery fire on the morning of the 26th, when the enemy again attacked and was finally repulsed with loss. Five times in all ( thrice heavily ) was this post attacked, and on each occasion the attack was driven back.

Throughout the period Lieutenant Dean inspired his command with his own contempt of danger, and all fought with the greatest bravery. He set an example of valorous leadership and devotion to duty of the very highest order.

Donald Dean was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on the 15th February 1919.

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Donald Dean went to France as Officer Commanding No. 5 Group Auxilliary Pioneer Corps. The group took part in the defence of Boulogne and during the fighting Dean was blown up and was incorrectly reported as dead. His unit eventually covered the withdrawal of the Guards when they were being taken off the beaches at Dunkirk. After his arrival back in England Dean was promoted Lieutenant Colonel.

After serving in Madagascar, where he was responsible for organizing the return of the defeated Vichy forces to France, Dean took part in the Sicilian Allied Landings in 1943 and later served in Italy.

Donald Dean died at the age of eighty-eight at his home in Sittingbourne on 9th December 1985. He was the last surviving British soldier to have won the VC in the First World War. Following his cremation at Charing his ashes were interred in the family plot at St John the Baptist Churchyard, Tunstall, Kent.

Medal entitlement of Colonel Donald Dean VC, OBE - 8th Bn, Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment

  • Victoria Cross
  • Officer, Order of the British Empire ( OBE )
  • 1914 - 15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 ) + MiD Oakleaf
  • 1939 - 45 Star
  • Italy Star
  • Defence Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ( 1977 )
  • Territorial Decoration ( TD ) + 4 Bars
  • Knight, Order of Dannebrog ( Denmark )


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Iain Stewart, 20 October 2008