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3 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
On behalf of his son, John Henry Geoffre Dixon (formerly of Belfast, now living in Ontario, Canada, aged 63), I am seeking ANY information on Ronald "Ronnie" John Dixon, born July 17 1924 in Barnsley, West Yorkshire, UK, moved to and married Patricia Murlee, Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1942 or 1946. Left his wife and then 3 year old son John, boarded the Edinburgh Castle III in Southampton, UK, June 22 1950 and sailed to Cape Town, and it is believed lived in or around Durban, South Africa, until his death by bronchial pneumonia on Aug 17, 1994.

John Dixon (and his father's family) lost all touch with his father Ronald Dixon in 1950. I have spent the last 8 months intensively searching for information about his father who he has not seen or heard from in 59 years. I have learned, in my genealogical research, that Ronald was a decorated Lancaster bomber rear-gunner from 1942 - 1945 in The Iroquois RAF Squadron 431 out of Barnsley, Yorkshire UK. The boat passeger list, however, listed his occupation as "grocer".

Over nearly 60 years, Ronald posted only one postcard to his family in Yorkshire, postmarked Durban, that read, "Alive and well."

This morning, I received a death certificate from South Africa noting Ronald John Dixon died in Durban 15 years ago of bronchial pneumonia. It notes he was "unmarried". I have no other details.

For the sake of closure, I am appealing to ANYONE who lived in Durban from 1950 - 1994 who may have known Ronald John Dixon to please contact me on this forum, to tell me ANYTHING they can about Ronald Dixon -- what did he do for a living? where did he work? did he have any friends? did he have a female partner? did he leave a will or estate to his son or family? did he ever speak of his wife and child in Belfast? did he ever speak of his brothers and sisters in Yorkshire or Barnsley? did belong to any war veterans association? did he speak of his tour of duty during WWII as a rear-gunner with Squadron 431? does anyone have ANY pictures of Ronald Dixon? did he belong to any expat UK or Irish clubs, pubs or other social associations?

I am writing on behalf of Ronald Dixon's son, John H G Dixon, now retired and living in Central Ontario, who has only limited computer and Internet access. John Dixon holds no grudges whatsoever against his father. His mother, Ronald's wife, is alive at age 88, but suffering from dementia in a senior's residence in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but she is lucid enough to have some memories of Ronald dating back to the 40's and early 50's.

I would be MOST GRATEFUL for ANY information, or leads, or tips or suggestions on how to go about finding out what Ronald Dixon was doing with his life for those lost 60 years.

Eternal thanks, in advance.

Rosemary in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada

1,341 Posts
Hi, for a start go to the national archives ( National Archives of South Africa - Homepage) and start a search there.
he may have been unmarried at the time of his death but may well have been married and divorced, if so, his divorce papers, as well as any Court Actions (Civil cases,bad debts,legal disputes) will be filed there.
that will give you either a locality or an ex-wife.
your next step is then the SA Telephone book ( google white pages South Africa)
you can get cheap telephone calls from canade with certain Companies but be aware that that there is a major time difference between the two Countries and you may be phoning elderly people.
The next place to contact is the Memorable order of the Tin Hats (MOTHS) which is an ex-servicemans association which is very popular with older veterans to find out if he is a member.
Welcome to the MOTH Web Page
I do however think you need to state that there is no financial interest and that you/the son is prepared to forego any financial interest and not dispute a will

It is also posible that he would have been a bowl player, again a very popular pastime in SA given the weather.

You mentioned that you have recieved a death cert, have you contacted the doctor who signed the death cert? it is likely he would have been the mans family Doctor or know who that was.
if so it gives you access to a lot of info that is not medical.

what names and info were on the death cert and how did they find out who to send it to?

Bowls South Africa (BowlsClub.org)

3 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Wow, Daxk, you certainly have given my search a brand new jump start! Thank you!

I actually got the death certificate copy second-hand by way of an archivist-genealogist by the name of Rosemary Dixon-Smith (my research tells me she is very well-known and reliable, and just happens to be the ''expert'' on all things "Dixon" in South Africa, who got an insider to send the copy to her, she sent it to my genealogist, who emailed it to me. The certificate originates from the Archive you mention. I would not have been able to get it otherwise, apparently, as I am merely the best friend of Ronald Dixon's son, and not a blood relative. The information on the death certificate, as is in the case of all non-native South Africans, very scant: date of birth, date of death, gender, place of death, cause of death. The only other info on the form is an IDNO: 240717 5082 1 8 4, and and Issue Number: YHT216. No mention of an issuing doctor. I just noticed it was issued by th Department of Home Affairs, Republic of South Africa.

I will follow up on the other tips you proffered, for which I am very grateful. Quite honestly, I've had great difficulty finding ANY resources in Durban SA specifically, and South Africa generally. I tried looking for archived copies of newspapers, but most require some form of paid registration. Other resource people told me outright that there is no formal record-keeping for non-native South Africans.

Someone told me to try forums like this one, in the hopes of finding someone who might have known Ronald personally, but when you consider he would have been 85 years old today, it's highly unlikely many persons of his age would be online, but you never know. I found Ronald's youngest sister, Edith, in Yorkshire. She had not heard from her brother since 1981, when she received the only postcard Ronald apparently ever sent.

I tried looking for Irish-Expat social clubs, newsletters, neighbourhoods, etc, but the difficulty is always that Ronald died 15 years ago, and there is unlikely any online records.

I tried immigration records sites, but was told I could not access info if I was not blood-related. I tried looking in S.A. phonebooks, and found a half-dozen current J R Dixons listed, but of course, that was before I learned he died in 1994.

The only memento John has of his dad (he doesn't even have a photo, as far a I know, and only has a three year old's memory of his dad's face, from 60 year's ago to go by) is a Caterpillar pin, issued to Ron in 1944 when he had to bail out of his Lancaster bomber at 20,000 feet, over England, when the plane ran into engine trouble and he had to evacuate. He also received a silver cross for dedicated service at Buckingham Palace in Nov 1944, which he had intended for John to have, along with his serviceman's cap. Two months ago I found a Canadian war stories writer living a mere 2 hours drive from me who had only JUST published a book detailing all of Squadron 431`s missions, with a few blurbs about Ronald Dixon in it. I purchased a copy of the book for John so he could read of his dad's exploits in the mid-40's.

The question John may never get the answer for is simply WHY his father so suddenly left his wife and only namesake son to hightail it to South Africa. It was so uncharacteristic of him. Did he misapprehend a situation? Did he find another woman? Did he have a secret row with a family member? None of his living relatives (his youngest sister, a brother in law in his 80's also suffering from dementia) know why he left, and why he never wrote or communicated with them, save for the one time in 1981.

John is not looking for ANY monetary compensation or proceeds from Ronald's estate as he is comfortably retired. He is just looking for some answers which I promised, as his best friend, to help him get answered.

Your email helped enormously. Thank you kindly and do write again, if you can think of anything else. Your expertise is so greatly appreciated.

Rosemary B-Chiu, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.

1,341 Posts
Hi Rosemary, only a pleasure.

I dont have any expertise in the field , just some interest that started when I traced my Mothers Biological mother 68 years after the fact through false names and deceptions.
End of day my mother met her mother who was
then 90 yo and living less than 10 kms from my Mother.
it was meant to be a birthday present but took two birthdays to complete.

Your best hope is to get the full Death Cert which will list the Dr who declared and the Hospital/Hospice.
Those will give you, (if you can persuade them) details of his usual GP Doctor.
and he is likely to have known him for a number of years.

at the least you will be able to get an address.

The ID number you have above is important in all enquiries,

ID 240717 5082 1 8 4, is his SA ID without which nothing happens in SA.

the first few numbers are his birthdate, the 8 is that he was white and the 4 is that he had Permanent residence as opposed to SA citizenship.

As to why he left,
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affected huge amounts of people during and after WW2 and was never treated, it only became recognised about 5 years after the Vietnam War.
Flying in Bomber Command where something like 60% of all bombers did not make it and the unfortunate feelings of guilt for surving affected thousands of servicemen.

Flying and being decorated would have put an enormous strain on someone to "keep a stiff upper lip" and not show fear,emotion, etc...
and the greatest fear of all was of breaking and showing "lack of moral fibre"

Escapism and wanting to start somewhere new was also very prevalent after WW2.
Greatbritain(and I assume Northern Ireland ) suffered rationing, depression, unemployment until well after 1950.

Australia had the £10 poms programme and AUs, NZ and SA were desparate for skilled immigrants and had massive employment on offer.
Fresh start in a New warmer place , he would have met SA and Au and NZ airmen
who would have sung the praises.

One scenario:
His wife did not want to leave her family and what she held familiar,
He looked at unemployment , or a new life.
War changes people, it makes them grow up, changes their priorities.
THe Wife and mother may not have changed to the same extent,
they were different people who had matured in different places
now had different ideas of the future.

he just wanted out of the responsibility.
who knows?
find the Family doctor.

3 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Re: seeking John Ronald Dixon, Durban SA, formerly of Belfast/Yorkshire


Once again, you have set my brain whirling!'

First off, kudos to you in persevering in your own genealogical search and what an amazing resolution! I love hearing stories like that. I've compiled binder of almost 80 pages, detailing the progress of my search. I too was waylaid by misinformation, misspelled names, typos and false or erroneous information (eg., Dickson versus Dixon). And every time I was about to give up, some angel like yourself would pop in and put me back on the right path. It is the generosity of spirit and information, like yours, that keeps me pushing until I find the answers I'm seeking.

Even after the countless hours I've devoted to this search for my best friend's father since the New Year, NONE of these ideas you proffered even crossed my mind, yet on reading them, they are SO obvious or at least very probable!

Thank you so much for explaining the Death Certficate ID numbers. There is no way I would have known, or known how to seek out their significance.

Even though I taught English Language, Literature and Linguistics at the university level for years, I'm at a loss as to how to adequately thank you for your kindness and information. The best I can do is, I hope, pay-it-forward sometime in future, if I should read someone else's query and there is something I can offer by way of assistance.

Thank you, sincerely, for yet again jump-starting my fascinating search.

Rosemary, in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.
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