GUARDSMAN RONALD ‘DIXIE’ DEAN
LANDED ON SWORD BEACH 0913 HOURS
DIED ON ‘D’ DAY, 6 JUNE 1944 IN AMFREVILLE 1543 HOURS, AGED 21
Ronald Cyril ‘Dixie’ Dean was born in Scarborough on 18 March 1923. His father, Walter, was also born in Scarborough but moved to Greater Manchester as a child. However, Walter returned to Scarborough and married Alice Abram in 1922. In 1911 her family lived at 7 Yew Court Cottages, Scalby and five of them are buried in the churchyard here. Ronald attended Scalby Church of England School: the building that is now St Laurence’s Church Rooms. Probably this is where he gained his nickname of ‘Dixie’, after Dixie Dean, the prolific goalscorer for Everton, who set a record of 60 goals in the 1927-28 season.
When he grew up Dixie worked for Fells coal merchants of Huntriss Row, and later became a lorry driver. He enlisted in the Grenadier Guards in Scarborough when he was 19 years old and by the time he was 21 had volunteered to join the Commandos. Shortly before ‘D’ Day, Dixie was held at a sealed camp in Titchfield which was run by Americans. Avoiding boredom, the troops organised their own entertainment through five-a-side football games, boxing matches and nightly cinema viewings.
It was here that the troops were informed of ‘Operation Overlord’. They were shown photos, given briefings and issued with French francs, although any place names remained secret. Lord Lovat, Commander of No. 1 Special Service Brigade, gave his 3,500 men a final, rousing speech. Their specific orders were to move swiftly off the beach, ‘get to the bridges’ and link up with the paratroopers. On 5 June 1944 Dixie and his fellow troops were taken to Warsash, a village on the River Hamble, between Southampton and the Isle of Wight. Dixie and his fellow members of No. 3 Troop were issued with bicycles which they took onto the landing craft with them and set off for Sword Beach as part of the invasion of Normandy.
We have a detailed account of Dixie’s last hours since his fellow Commando and friend Stan ‘Scotty’ Scott wrote a book about his experiences, entitled ‘Fighting with the Commandos’. They landed at 9.13am on 6 June and struggled up the beach into an area that the Germans had flooded. They then had to drag their bicycles through mud, reeds and water, sometimes knee deep, sometimes up to their armpits. German troops lobbed mortar bombs at them but these just went ‘plop’ in the mud. They came under fire near the Orne Bridge
and decided to pedal for their lives across it. 3 Troop all made it and carried on to the town of Amfreville to help the 12th Battalion. They approached the town on foot, cautiously going uphill and as they went around a corner a Maxim machine gun opened up and hit 4 of them, cutting off the leg of one man and killing Dixie. The Commandos went on to capture Amfreville by 4.30pm and by midnight had advanced 6 miles inland.
Dixie Dean is buried in Ranville War Cemetery in a plot near to the cross of sacrifice, along with 2,234 other Commonwealth burials of the Second World War and 330 German graves. Many of the casualties were troops of the 6th Airborne Division who landed nearby by parachute and glider. Dixie is also remembered by name at the Commando Memorial at the National Arboretum, Alrewas.