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Dean, Edwin Theyer (1884–1970)

by H. J. Zwillenberg

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Edwin Theyer Dean is a minor entry in this article

George Henry Dean (1859-1953), soldier, stock and station agent and grazier, was born on 29 June 1859 at Campbelltown, South Australia, son of English-born William Dean, stock and station agent and pastoralist, and his wife Esther, née Gardner. He attended the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide, from 1867 and at 18 joined his father's agency which was then known as Dean & Laughton.

On 10 June 1877 Dean enlisted as a private in the South Australian Mounted Rifles (Militia). He was commissioned lieutenant in 1880 and soon afterwards went to India as secretary to Colonel J. A. Fergusson, assistant adjutant general in South Australia, whose mission was to arrange the indenture of coolie labour for the Northern Territory. On 14 December 1882, at Clayton Congregational Church, Kensington, Dean married Florence Ida, daughter of (Sir) Edwin Smith, and next year went into partnership with his father, their firm becoming known as William Dean & Son. After his father's death in 1896 he managed the stock and station agency alone. He kept up his military associations and was promoted captain (S.A.M.R.) in 1885, major in 1895 and lieutenant-colonel in 1900. Next year he was awarded the Volunteer Officers' Decoration. In 1903-09 he was officer commanding the 16th Light Horse Regiment, Australian Military Forces, and was promoted colonel in April 1909. In July 1912 he was appointed to command the 8th Light Horse Brigade.

Soon after the outbreak of World War I Dean became chairman of a 4th Military District committee charged with selection of officers for the Australian Imperial Force. He was appointed to the A.I.F. on 11 March 1915 as a lieutenant-colonel and from 4 May commanded the 13th Light Horse Regiment which served, unmounted, at Gallipoli from early September. Next month Dean, ill with typhoid and enteric fever, was evacuated to Malta and then to England. He was discharged from the A.I.F. in July 1916, though in 1916-18 he held several temporary appointments as officer commanding troops on transports. Four of his five sons served overseas in 1914-18; the fifth, medically unfit for active service, was placed in charge of a recruiting depot.

Dean had held the rank of colonel in the Australian Military Forces from October 1916 and in 1920, after forty-three years of service, was placed on the reserve of officers with the honorary rank of brigadier general. Before embarking for active service he had sold his stock and station agency and after the war he invested in a grazing property. He also devoted much of his time to the formation of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia, was an active Freemason and kept up a lifelong interest in sport, especially rifle-shooting. In 1888 he had been responsible for the formation of a controlling body of rifle clubs, later to be known as the Commonwealth Council of Rifle Associations, and was its chairman in 1903-21. In 1913 he took the Australian rifle team to Bisley, England, and in 1932 was appointed C.B.E. in recognition of his contribution to rifle-shooting. In 1948 the Port Adelaide rifle range was renamed the Dean Range in his honour.

Survived by his only daughter and five sons, he died at his Gilberton home on 12 February 1953 and was buried with full military honours in Mitcham cemetery.

Dean's son, Edwin Theyer (1884-1970), was born on 11 December 1884 in Adelaide. After attending the Collegiate School of St Peter he joined his family's stock and station agency. Keenly interested in military affairs, he was commissioned second lieutenant in the Australian Field Artillery, Australian Military Forces, in 1905 and was promoted lieutenant in 1907 and captain in 1908. He served with the 34th Battery in 1909-12 and was then transferred to the unattached list. He married Gladys Jean Grieve at Stow Memorial (Congregational) Church, Adelaide, on 3 December 1912.

Just before World War I Dean resumed duty with the A.F.A. By July 1915 the 2nd Division, A.I.F., was being formed in Egypt and required an artillery component. A battery, to be known as the 18th Battery, 6th Field Artillery Brigade, was raised in South Australia, and on 20 October Dean, as its commanding officer, was appointed to the A.I.F. as a major. He embarked in November on the Botanist and in 1916-17 commanded the battery in Flanders and on the Somme. In January 1917 he held temporary command of the 6th Field Artillery Brigade. He was gassed on 4 June but resumed duty on 27 September. In August he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the citation stating that he had 'displayed the greatest fearlessness and gallantry in personally extinguishing three serious fires amongst his gun pits and ammunition, working at the imminent risk of his own life'.

On 4 October Dean was transferred to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade as commanding officer and was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 1 November. His unit was then serving in the Ypres sector and he retained command until the end of the war except for brief periods when he held temporary commands in the Royal Artillery. He was mentioned in dispatches four times in 1917-18 and awarded the Légion d'honneur in 1919. Discharged from the A.I.F. in June 1919, he was placed on the reserve of officers in August 1920 in the rank of lieutenant-colonel; he later edited a book, published in Adelaide, on the war service of the 1st Australian Field Artillery Brigade. After demobilization he settled on a grazing property, Karinya station, at Moculta near Angaston. He was awarded the Volunteer Officers' Decoration in 1926.

In World War II Dean was commandant of the Loveday Internment Group near Barmera and for his services was appointed M.B.E. The complex was disbanded in 1946 and that year he published a booklet on the history of internment in South Australia in 1940-46. In 1947 he was placed on the retired list with the honorary rank of colonel. He then resumed his pastoral activities at Angaston where, survived by a son and two daughters, he died on 3 June 1970. He was buried in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1907)
  • J. Dyer, The Story of the 18th Battery, 6th Brigade Field Artillery, 1st AIF, 1915-19 (Tusmore, SA, 1965)
  • London Gazette, 2 Jan, 1 June, 16 Aug, 28 Dec 1917, 31 Dec 1918
  • Anzac Bulletin, 22 Aug 1917
  • Register (Adelaide), 11 Aug 1920, 18 May 1921
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 18 June 1932, 29 June 1949, 13 Feb 1953, 6 June 1970
  • Leader (Angaston), 11 June 1970
  • A.B.C., Personalities Remembered (copy, State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

H. J. Zwillenberg, 'Dean, Edwin Theyer (1884–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dean-edwin-theyer-6339/text10107, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 19 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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