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Frederick William Charles Dean

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Frederick William Charles Dean (1867-1942)


1942 Obituary [1]


FREDERICK WILLIAM CHARLES DEAN, C.B., C.B.E., was associated with the town of Woolwich, where he was born in 1867, until his retirement from Government service in 1931. His professional career began in 1881 when, by means of competitive examination, he entered the Royal Arsenal as a "trade lad" (equivalent of an engineering apprentice). On completing his course, for a short time he thought he would adopt teaching as a career, but was soon convinced that he wanted a more active life, where his craving for constructive work might be better satisfied.

He became a draughtsman in the Royal Carriage Department of the Royal Arsenal in 1889, and the same year was awarded a Whitworth Exhibition. Promotion soon came to him, and he rose to the rank of assistant chief draughtsman, in which capacity he might have made a name for himself as an expert designer, but he felt the urge for getting closer to production. In 1901 he was promoted to be assistant manager, retaining his control in the Drawing Office, but being also in charge of some of the workshops. Two years later, he was promoted to be manager of the Royal Carriage Department. The scope of his activities was greatly enlarged, and he contributed in no small degree to the development of modern field equipment.

He took a particular interest in the efficient production of complicated naval sights and heavy mountings for coast defence, and later in the evolution of new types of fighting tanks. His ability to design, coupled with an extensive knowledge of manufacturing methods placed him in a unique position. He completely reorganized the Department over which he ruled, and was the first to introduce into a Government factory a modern method of payment by results, for which he instituted a separate rate-fixing department, to the operation of which he devoted much personal attention. At the same time he perceived the potentialities of high-speed steels, and the utilization of the most modern types of machine tools and automatic machines. The result was that when he had modernized its methods and equipment, the Royal Carriage Department was in a position to compete in the open market with the other engineering factories without fear or favour.

In view of the reputed conservatism of Government Departments, and the suspicion evidenced by Labour towards far-reaching changes, it is a testimony to the man that Mr. Dean introduced so many innovations without any serious friction. After the war of 1914-18, when the Arsenal was completely reorganized and new blood introduced, Mr. Dean's abilities were recognized, and he was promoted in 1921 to be superintendent of the Royal Gun and Carriage Factory, a position held by him until retirement in 1931, after which he lived quietly at Petts Wood, Kent, until his death on 4th February 1942.

He kept in touch, however, with his professional life until the beginning of the war now being waged, by serving in an honorary capacity on subcommittees of the Committee of Imperial Defence. He was four times honoured by the Crown, receiving the C.B.E. in 1929, and the C.B. in 1932. Somewhat inscrutable and reserved in character, it was only those who really knew him who realized that behind an austere exterior, there was an extremely kind heart, and it is not surprising that he welcomed the formation of an Apprenticeship Board for the Royal Ordnance Factories, on which he served as chairman for a number of years, he himself being an inspiration to many of the lads. He also took an active part in the inception of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, which had as one of its objects, the proper recognition of professional men employed in the service of the State.

He was elected a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1900.


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