b. 25/12/1891 Tillicoultry, Scotland. d. 15/02/1967 Eastbourne.
James Lennox Dawson (1891-1967) was born at 1 Hill Street, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, Scotland on 25th December 1891. His father was John Dawson, a mechanic of 16 Preston Street, Glasgow. His mother, Janet nee Lennox, was a warper originally from Alva, Clackmannanshire. John and Janet were married on 15th March 1889 at her home at 29 Ochil Street, Tillicoultry. James had three brothers – John, William George Lennox and Peter McLaren.
James was educated at Sunnyside Primary School Alloa, Alloa Academy and the Royal Technical College Glasgow. He was also a member of the Alloa YMCA. James enrolled at the University of Glasgow in 1909 to read Mathematics and Physics and passed the First Year examinations, but experienced difficulties later and left in 1913 after several unsuccessful resits. He became a science teacher at Abraham Hill’s Trust School, Govan and retook his Chemistry degree but failed again.
James enlisted in 5th Cameronians on 28th November 1914 and trained with 2/5th Battalion until he went to France on 11th March 1915 to serve with 1/5th Battalion. He was promoted to Corporal, but against his will was transferred to the Special Brigade Royal Engineers on 19th July as a Sergeant.
On 13th October 1915 at Hohenzollern Redoubt, France, during a gas attack, when the trenches were full of men, Corporal Dawson exposed himself fearlessly to the enemy's fire in order to give directions to his sappers and to clear the infantry out of sections of the trench which were full of gas. Finding three leaking cylinders, he rolled them well away from the trench, again under heavy fire, and then fired rifle bullets into them to let the gas escape. His gallantry undoubtedly saved many men from being gassed.
His second cousin, Corporal James Dalgleish Pollock, was awarded the VC a few weeks previously at the same location. James was promoted WO2 (Company Sergeant Major) on 7th November. The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 15th December. James left France on 29th January 1916 and was commissioned on 27th February. He returned to France and was wounded in the hand prior to the Somme offensive on 27th June. Posted to London District Anti-Gas School in November and was appointed acting captain while officer in charge from 26th April 1917. On 9th October he was appointed to the British Military Mission to the USA. He was appointed officer in charge of troops at HM Factory, Ellesmere Port in November 1918. He was demobilised in February 1919 and appeared in the Army List until June 1920.
James had married Margaret Maxwell nee Nicoll on 8th October 1917. The couple did not have any children. He returned to Glasgow University in the summer of 1919 and passed the Chemistry Laboratory class in October, but fell short of the range of subjects required for a BSc degree. He appealed to be awarded the BSc in Pure Science under war service regulations. He was awarded a special pass in Geography and graduated BSc on 23rd June 1920.
James was commissioned as a probationary Lieutenant in the Army Educational Corps on 11th December 1920, with seniority from 15th June 1920. He was a Temporary Instructor at the School of Education, Newmarket from 1920-1921. He was promoted to Captain later that year. He transferred to the Indian Army on 30th May 1921 with seniority as Lieutenant from 7th October 1919. He was appointed Staff Captain 1st October 1924 and was District Education Officer, Peshawar in the Indian Army List. He was an Instructor at the Army School of Education (British Wing), Belgaum, India from 1926 to 1929.
He transferred to the Indian Army Ordnance Corps and his first appointment was as Staff Captain, Directorate of Ordnance Services India, Provision Section 31st January 1933 – 1st January 1936, followed by Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services, HQ India from 1936 to 1937. He was promoted to Major and attended the Staff College at Quetta in 1938. From 1941-1946 he was Vehicle Liaision Officer with the India Supply Commission in North America. He transferred from the Indian Army to the Special List, but remained in India for some time after independence in 1947 to assist the Indian Army. On retirement in 1948, he was granted the rank of honorary Colonel.
James Dawson died at his home at 9 Hartfield Road, Eastbourne, Sussex on 15th February 1967. He was cremated at Eastbourne Crematorium and his ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. In addition to the VC, he was awarded 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, George V Jubilee Medal 1935, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The VC is held by the Hunterian Library, University of Glasgow.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND.
BURIAL PLACE: EASTBOURNE CREMATORIUM, EASATBOURNE, SUSSEX. ASHES SCATTERED
James Lennox Dawson's medals at the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow
(Picture courtesy of Thomas Stewart).
Dawson family grave in Ayr
His memorial stone (Thomas Stewart)
War Illustrated, 22nd January 1916