-H.M.S. Hood Crew Information-
Autobiography of 'Dixie' Dean
By Paul Bevand, MBE
Updated 06-May-2014

Ken Dean, or "Dixie" as he was known, was a veteran of H.M.S. Hood and a long time member of the H.M.S. Hood Association. He provided an account of his service career to Paul Bevand, who in turn, wrote this biography. Sadly, Dixie passed away in November 2006. He is greatly missed by his friends and shipmates.

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Hood veteran Dixie DeanKenneth Arthur Dean was born on 29th February 1920 at Crowthorne in Berkshire and was educated at Crowthorne Elementary school. When he left school aged 14 he had his first job as a Laboratory Boy at Wellington College. About that time, his Christian names were replaced by the nickname by which he has been known ever since. As Dixie put it: "Since leaving school, I have always been known as ‘Dixie Dean’. I got the name from that well known footballer Dixie Dean of Everton and England. Plus the fact that I was considered a good footballer and ended up representing the Royal Navy at football!"

Having admired the Royal Navy throughout his boyhood, he decided that he wanted to "join up and see the world." However, this was against the wishes of his parents who remained unconvinced that he had made the right choice "until I came home on my first leave. Then they were very proud of me."

Dixie joined up as a Boy 2nd Class in October 1935 and spent the next 8 months at the shore base H.M.S. St. Vincent at Gosport. Leaving St. Vincent in May 1936, he was passed as a Boy 1st Class, and joined the training ship H.M.S. Iron Duke.

A year after first joining up came his first sea going draft. He joined the battleship H.M.S. Royal Sovereign at Portland in October 1937. Dixie remembered life as a Boy Seaman being a life of routine. Mainly his work was "scrubbing decks, cleaning the woodwork and polishing the brass." In the days before World War 2 the smartness of the ship was still foremost in the mind of the Commander. As a result, the regime was still ‘spit and polish.’ "I also had duties as a call boy which involved either shouting or piping messages about the ship so that all the crew were aware of what they were ordered to do." Eventually, Dixie progressed to the more interesting and rewarding work of helping to crew one of the ship’s picket boats. But there was always the mess room routine as well, "Of course, we all had our daily duty in the mess, especially at meal times when we had a roster for the collection of food from the cookhouse and of course the washing up had to be done and the mess made suitable for the Officer of the Watch’s evening rounds." Dixie spent 6 months in Royal Sovereign before returning to H.M.S. Victory barracks in Portsmouth. His next draft came two months later, in May 1937, when he joined the cruiser H.M.S. Neptune as an Ordinary Seaman.

The main event that Dixie recalled from his time in Neptune was a tragic loss of life: "Whilst sailing through the Bay of Biscay during what we were told was the worst storm for 50 years, we had the terrible loss of Leading Seaman Lacy. The Captain made it known that no man should attempt to save him."

The draft to Neptune was to be of short duration. The autumn of 1937 saw Dixie join the battle cruiser H.M.S. Hood. Dixie’s time in Hood coincided with the Spanish Civil War. As with many other veterans, most of his Hood memories were of the missions to protect refugees and British merchant shipping: "‘I served a long time on the Hood during the Spanish Civil War. We had to transfer refugees – a lot of whom were ladies and some of whom were nuns. One event that remains in my mind is when we were sent from Gibraltar up to the Bay of Biscay. Some British Merchant ships were trying to get goods to the north Spanish ports, which were controlled by the Republicans. General Franco’s Nationalist ships were trying to blockade the ports and stop the British ships getting in. Admiral Blake arrived in Hood and made it clear to the Nationalist ships that he would stand no messing. But the next time that the merchantmen appeared their cruiser, the Almirante Cervera, trained her guns on the unarmed British ships. That was Admiral Blake’s cue and he replied by training Hood’s broadside on the Spanish warships. I never knew that Franco had a ship which could move that fast. Off they went and we didn’t have any trouble from them again."

Dixie also had this to say about his time in Hood: "I was always keen on sports and being a big ship, Hood had her fair share of famous faces from the sporting world of the Navy. In Hood we had Able Seaman Wiltshire (Running), Lieutenant Commander Grenville (Water Polo), and Able Seaman ‘Buster’ Brown (Boxing)." Dixie was rated Able Seaman in January 1939 whilst still serving in Hood. It was also during this time that he commenced his speciality of torpedoes. He would go on to spend two and a half years in Hood, leaving her in April 1940.

Dixie spent the spring of 1940 at H.M.S. Victory barracks in Portsmouth. In the summer of 1940 he underwent some further training in his torpedo speciality at H.M.S. Vernon, the Royal Navy’s torpedo training school in Portsmouth harbour. In September 1940, at the end of this period of training, he was rated Leading Seaman, Torpedo Operator.

Dixie’s next sea appointment lasted only a month as he was drafted to H.M.S. Serapion from September to October 1940. Another short draft followed to H.M.S. Commilees from October 1940 to January 1941. By this time Dixie had been rated Petty Officer Instructor and, in that capacity, he returned to H.M.S. Vernon in January of 1941. He was to remain at Vernon for over two years.

Dixie was reassigned to the old cruiser H.M.S. Dauntless in April 1943. The draft to Dauntless took Dixie through to January of the following year. His time in Dauntless again gave him the opportunity to follow the sports that he loved: "I was a respected water polo player at the time. Petty Officer Sam Halford was in the ship at the same time as me and we had a good team."

Leaving Dauntless in January 1944, Dixie joined the King George V class battleship, H.M.S. Howe. When he joined her at Torbay on 14th January 1944, Howe had just left the Home Fleet and was undergoing a refit in preparation to transfer to the Pacific Fleet. Her refit took place at Devonport and lasted until April of 1944. Following a work up at Scapa Flow, Howe left for eastern waters on 01 July 1944. Her route took her through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. Stopping off at Trincomalee, she joined the Eastern Fleet.

In December of 1944 she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and became the Flagship of Admiral Bruce Fraser, the Commander-in-Chief. Howe then moved to Sydney, Australia and was the first British ship to arrive there. January of 1945 took Howe to New Zealand to enable Admiral Fraser to meet with officials of the Government. The following month took Howe back to Sydney and, with the remaining ships having arrived, the Pacific Fleet was fully formed for the first time. At this time, Admiral Fraser left the ship and took command from ashore.

The last day of February saw Howe and the rest of the fleet leave Sydney to join up with the US 5th Fleet ready for deployment as required. This would prove to be primarily bombardment of Japanese airfields during the spring of 1945. In early May the ship was narrowly missed by a kamikaze aircraft. Late May 1945 saw the Fleet re-designated ‘Task Force 37. The following month Howe was withdrawn and sent to Durban for a refit. The autumn of 1945 saw the ship return to Trincomalee before heading home in January 1946. She was then used as a training ship at Portland for the remainder of Dixie’s time in her. He left the ship in January 1947. She had been his home for more than 3 years and had taken him to the other side of the world. He had certainly fulfilled his ambition of ‘seeing the world’ which had motivated him to join the service more than a decade earlier.

Dixie spent the next three years, from April 1947 to August 1951, in H.M.S. Osprey and H.M.S. Cadiz. His final draft came in August 1951 when he joined H.M.S. St Angelo serving in the Mediterranean, based on Malta. He would serve here for three years before returning to H.M.S Vernon and being discharged from the service on 28th August 1954.

After leaving the Royal Navy, Dixie worked as an aircraft fitter at Blackbush airport for 6 months then as an electrician for R.E.M.E. Later he ‘changed over’ to become a Clerical Officer then an Executive Officer in the Civil Service where he continued to work until he retired.

Dixie was a member of the H.M.S. Hood Association from its early days and can be seen in all the photos from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He was a great supporter of the Association and its activities. Sadly, he crossed the bar in November 2006. He will be greatly missed by his many friends and shipmates. Rest in peace Dixie.