Dixie Deans (RAF airman)

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James Deans MBE (1913 – 18 February 1989), known as Dixie Deans, was a RAF Sergeant and World War II bomber pilot shot down in 1940 who became a renowned prisoner of war Camp Leader.[1]

Deans spoke perfect German and when captured commanded his fellow POWs as the elected Camp Leader, gaining the respect and trust of both prisoners and German captors alike. In 1945 he guided 2,000 Allied POWs across Europe in what was known as the 'Long March'.

On 10 September 1940 Deans (of 77 Squadron) took off from Linton-on-Ouse in a Whitley bomber to attack Bremen. His aircraft was hit by flak and crash landed at Venebrugge (Overijssel), ENE of Zwolle, Holland.

Sergeant Deans was imprisoned first at Stalag Luft I, then moved to Stalag Luft III, where as camp leader held meetings with the Germans on behalf of the NCO POWs.

He was then transferred to Stalag Luft VI at Heydekrug, in Lithuania. As with other camps he set up covert intelligence gathering networks and the use of radios built in the camps obtained through bribery of selected guards. This enabled the POWs to keep up to date with events from the BBC. He was also responsible for helping to organise the passing of secret information to MI9 via specially coded letters.

In March 1945, Deans took charge of 2,000 POWs on a month-long march across Poland and Germany in what became known as one of the 'Long Marches' to Stalag XI-B at Fallingbostel.

From here Deans and the thousands of POWs were marched north-east towards Lübeck. Deans took charge of the daily details of survival on the march and bullied the Germans left in charge for food, transport for the sick, and for better overnight accommodation. He also demanded that the German Commandant Oberst Ostmann allow him to set off to warn the approaching British armies of the POW columns ahead. He made contact with the British Army and on returning guided his men to safety where he accepted Oberst Ostmann's surrender.[2]

When Deans returned home to England he found work as an executive officer at the London School of Economics, until he retired in 1977. Shortly after the war Deans was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which he fought for the rest of his life. Deans was awarded the MBE.

Deans was a founder member and first President of the RAF Ex-POW Association.

See also


  1. 'Dixie' Deans MBE RAF Ex-POW Association
  2. The Last Escape - John Nichol, Tony Rennell - 2002 Penguin UK

External links