East Kent Provincial News 2014

Colonel Donald John Dean

Sittingbourne Commemoration of World War One VC Recipient


The Memorial Slab honouring Donald Dean

On the afternoon of Remembrance Day, 9th November 2014, a unique event took place at the War Memorial in Sittingbourne with the dedication of a commemorative slab. The Government undertook to supply these slabs to honour servicemen awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War to be suitably installed at the place of their birth. One such recipient was Colonel Donald John Dean, a Past Master of St Michael’s Lodge No 1273 and a Founder of Sædingburna Lodge No 6728. Although born in Herne Hill, he spent all but his first two years, and those on military service in both World Wars, in Sittingbourne.

Representaives from St Michael's Lodge & Sædingburna Lodge

Representatives of the two lodges were invited to take part in the VC Commemorative Event which featured a service at the Sittingbourne War Memorial in Central Avenue, followed by a short parade into the High Street dispersing at St Michael’s Church. The service was undertaken by the Mayor’s Chaplain Reverend Jean Burrows, Archdeacon Stephen Taylor of the Canterbury Diocese and supported by the Sittingbourne Royal British Legion Chaplain Mrs Pat Tatchell. The Senior Band of the Salvation Army accompanied the service adjacent to the War Memorial. Members of Donald Dean’s family were present, headed up by his daughter, Mrs Susan Bavin.

Part of the Commemoration Parade

The parade was led by the Boys Brigade Band followed by the banner party of the Royal British Legion and the Buffs, the Kent Army Cadet Force, the Air Training Corps, the St John’s Ambulance, the Scouts and the Sittingbourne Freemasons. It formed up on Central Avenue for a march past the saluting base consisting of HM Vice Lord-Lieutenant Richard Oldfield, the Mayor of Swale, Cllr George Bobbin and Susan Bavin, wearing her father’s medals including the Victoria Cross.

Other members of the family played their part, a tribute being read by David Bavin, a grandson of Col Dean while another, Major Simon Dean of the Army Cadet Force was the Parade Marshal.

A Wreath laid by the Sittingbourne Freemasons

Following the service at the Sittingbourne War Memorial, the Mayor of Swale hosted a Civic Reception in the Council Chamber at Swale House with Mrs Susan Bavin as Guest of Honour. Representatives of the two lodges were also invited to the Reception. To be allowed to take part in such a momentous and unique event was both a privilege and an honour, never to be repeated.

Rev Jean Burrows, Archdeacon Stephen Taylor & Chaplain Mrs Pat Tatchell

Donald Dean joined up in 1914 as a Private in the 28th London (Artists Rifles) Regiment and saw service in the Ypres Salient and during the Battle of the Somme. He was wounded a number of times, the worst occasion requiring repatriation to hospital in England. In October 1916 he was commissioned into the Royal West Kent Regiment and fought at Vimy Ridge and around Givenchy. During the period 24 September–26 September 1918, north-west of Lens in France, Lieutenant Dean with his platoon held an advance post established in a newly captured enemy trench. The post was ill-prepared for defence and the lieutenant worked unceasingly with his men to consolidate the position, under very heavy fire. The post was attacked five times altogether and on each occasion the attack was repulsed. Throughout the whole of this time Lieutenant Dean inspired his command with his own contempt of danger and set the highest example of valour, leadership and devotion to duty.

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Donald Dean went to France as Officer Commanding No. 5 Group Auxiliary Pioneer Corps and was among the last to leave the port of Boulogne in 1940. Later he served in Madagascar and Italy, earning two Mentions in Despatches and a promotion to full Colonel in 1945.

Donald Dean is one of many Kentish Freemasons that feature in the World War 1 exhibition, on display for a limited time at the Kent Museum of Freemasonry. Read more.