Prince Dawson is my 1st cousin 2x removed – in other words he is my granddad’s cousin. He was born sometime in the third quarter of 1893 in Keighley, West Yorkshire, to parents John Dawson and Elizabeth Bradley.
I have found Prince, his parents and siblings on the 1901 census and in 1911 when he is working as an iron plainer.
Fortunately for me Ancestry.co.uk has a copy of Prince’s WW1 service records and they are in pretty good condition so I can work out quite a lot of information about him.
I know that he enlisted for four years in Keighley on 28th September 1914 about eight weeks after Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August.
According to the medical report Prince was not a very tall chap – in fact he was only 5 feet 4 inches. He had normal vision and good physical development.
His first posting was to the 2/6th Battalion of The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) – part of the Territorial Force. His regimental number was 2757. The 2/6th was formed at Skipton in September 1914 as a home service (“second line”) unit.
On Christmas Day 1914 he was transferred to the 1/6th Battalion The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment).
Prince remained billeted in Doncaster until April 1915. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for Prince and all the other troops waiting to be shipped to France.
Anyway the day eventually came and he embarked from Southampton on 13th April 1915 and landed at Le Havre on 14th April 1915. The 1/6th then became the 147th Brigade of the 49th (West Riding) Division.
By the 19th April the Division had concentrated in the area of Estaires – Merville – Neuf Berquin. They remained in France and Flanders and took part in The Battle of Aubers Ridge (9th May 1915) and the defence against the first Phosgene attack (19th December 1915).
I can see from Prince’s medical record that he was admitted to the field hospital on 25th June 1915 with diarrhea. He rejoined his unit the following day.
The next available information shows that Prince was wounded in action with gas poisoning on 19th December 1915 – the first day of the Phosgene attack mentioned above. He was admitted to hospital at Paris-Plage but died at 5.50pm on 21st December 1915.
The following extract is from the book “Craven’s Part in The Great War” by John T Clayton (editor of the Craven Herald, Skipton).
On the 22nd December 1915 a telegraph was received at the Territorial Force Records Office in York notifying them of Prince’s death with instructions to “inform relatives”. I don’t know when the knock on the door came or when the family telegraph arrived but you can bet it was a lousy Christmas in the Dawson house that year.
Just over two month’s later on the 1st March 1916 the War Office at St. James’s Park, London wrote to the Territorial Force Records Office asking them to despatch any of Prince’s personal property in their possession to Mr John Dawson at 42 High Street, Steeton, Keighley.
The next document is dated 7th March 1916 and is a signed acknowledgement from John for Prince’s effects which included a badge, belt, cig case, knife (pocket), letters, 2 pencils, photos and wallet.
I felt really sad when I came across that document and was left wondering how John and Elizabeth must have felt.
Prince served for 1 year and 85 days and didn’t come home. This same story can be told for many, many thousands of military casualties from the UK and around the World.
Prince is buried at Le Touqet-Paris Plage Communal Cemetery in Plot II. A. 35.
The Duchess of Westminister’s Hospital (No.1 B.R.C.S) was at Le Touquet from October 1914, to July 1918, and the British graves in the Communal Cemetery were made from that hospital. The Communal Cemetery contains a number of French and Italian military graves, and two British Plots in the corner. A wooden obelisk in memory of the British dead was erected in the cemetery by the Lifeboat men of the commune. There are now 142 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war here. All of whom died in the period November 1914, to April 1916.
I very much doubt that John and Elizabeth had the opportunity to visit Prince’s grave. So I make a promise now that I will go and pay my respects for them.