‘The Germans are here, goodbye!’ Those were the words of Victoria Cross hero Donald Dean to his commander as enemy soldiers broke into his trench in 1918.
The son of a Sittingbourne brick maker, Donald Dean lied about his age to enlist in 1915.
Working his way up from Private to acting Captain in the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, Dean was severely wounded by machine gun fire at Passchendaele in 1917.
Recovered from his wounds, Dean returned to France in 1918 where he won his VC near the city of Lens.
Ordered to hold a captured and isolated trench, 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. He set an example of valorous leadership and devotion to duty of the very highest order.‟
Dean also served in World War II and witnessed the fall of France in 1940.
Seventy years on, the account tells how Dean led a group of poorly armed Pioneer troops to the port of Boulogne.
Fighting off German tanks, Dean‟s Pioneers fought alongside the Irish and Welsh Guards.
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.
When Dean later questioned the withdrawal of the Guards at Boulogne he was warned never to speak of the incident again.
Author Terry Crowdy has edited Dean’s letters and diaries, never previously published, adding additional notes and material from official reports to give the reader context. The result is a moving, often amusing and inspiring portrait of a Kentish hero.
Terry Crowdy is the author of a number of books and articles, including The Enemy Within: A History of Espionage which received international recognition.
He is the author of the popular ‘Military Misdemeanours’, and his most recent book, ‘Deceiving Hitler’ has been the subject of lectures in the USA and across Europe.
He was given full access to Colonel Dean’s papers to produce this important memoir of a soldier through two world wars. Terry lives in Kent, UK.
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Donald Dean VC