Thomas Dinesen

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Thomas Fasti Dinesen
Dinesen in the uniform of the Black Watch of Canada
Born (1892-08-09)9 August 1892
Rungsted, Denmark
Died 10 March 1979(1979-03-10) (aged 86)
Leerbaek, Denmark
Buried at Hørsholm Churchyard, Hørsholm, Denmark
Allegiance Canadian Red Ensign 1868-1921.svg Canada
Service/branch Canadian Expeditionary Force
Years of service 1917–1918
Rank Lieutenant
Unit 42nd Infantry Battalion, CEF
Battles/wars First World War
Awards Victoria Cross
Croix de guerre (France)
Order of Dannebrog (Denmark)
Pro Benignitate Humana Medal (Finland)
Relations Karen Blixen (sister)

Thomas Fasti Dinesen VC (9 August 1892 – 10 March 1979[1] ) was a Danish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the younger brother of the noted author Karen Blixen (who used the pen name Isak Dinesen).


He was born in in an affluent and aristocratic family in Rungsted, Denmark. Following the outbreak of the First World War, Dinesen attempted to enlist in the British, French, and United States armies, before finally being accepted by the Canadian Corps in 1917. He enlisted in the Black Watch of Canada regiment.

During the Battle of Amiens he was 26 years old, and a private in the 42nd Quebec Regiment (Royal Highlanders of Canada) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force when, on 12 August 1918 at Parvillers, France, he displayed conspicuous bravery when, five times in succession, he rushed forward alone against entrenched enemy troops and put hostile guns out of action. He was credited with killing 12 of the enemy using both bayonet and grenade, and with inspiring his comrades at a very critical stage of the action.[2]

For this action, Dinesen was awarded the Victoria Cross (or VC). He also received the French Croix de guerre.[3] He later achieved the rank of lieutenant.

Thomas's sister Karen (whom he, and most of their Danish friends, called "Tanne") later wrote that her brother's bravery, and the recognition from the English Crown, in some measure saved her own reputation in the community of British colonials among whom she lived in British East Africa. According to Blixen, she had inadvertently alienated many of her neighbors by helping to buy horses for a German officer she met on board ship while sailing to Kenya for the first time. Only months later this officer, General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, was named commander of the German forces in East Africa, and waged an effective campaign against Blixen's English neighbors. Blixen commented that the suspicion and resentment this aroused in her fellow colonists only subsided after her brother won the VC.[4]

Life after the war[edit]

In 1918, Thomas Dinesen moved to British East Africa to help his sister manage her coffee farm in the Ngong hills southwest of Nairobi. He was his mercurial sister's most reliable confidant.[5] He designed and largely built the farm's coffee-roasting plant (which later burned down). Early in 1923, Thomas left the colonial life and returned to Denmark.

In his later years he took up writing, and wrote a number of books in Danish. The best known is Tanne, about his famous sister. In 1929 he published the book No man's land: En dansker med canadierne ved vestfronten. It was translated into English in 1930 under the title Merry Hell!: A Dane with the Canadians. The book describes his troublesome way to the Western Front as well as the events that won him the VC.

He is buried in Hørsholm Churchyard, Hørsholm, Denmark. His VC and other medals are held in the Lord Ashcroft VC collection in the Imperial War Museum.


  1. ^ Thomas Fasti Dinesen
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30975. p. 12670. 25 October 1918. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  3. ^ Thurman, Judith Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller, St. Martin's Press, 1982, p. 141
  4. ^ Letter by Karen Blixen, Ngong in Kenya 13 december 1918 published in "Breve far Afrika" 1978
  5. ^ Thurman, Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller pp. 165–166

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