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Henry Dawson was born circa 1891 in the village of Banks not far from Southport in Lancashire. His parents, both from Hesketh Bank, had married in the parish church of All Saints, Hesketh with Becconsall on the 22nd November 1871. A later census reveals that they went on to have sixteen children including Henry, but of those, five of the children had sadly passed away.

In both the 1891 and 1901 Census Henry and his family were resident at Hundred End in the village of Banks, Henry`s father was originally a stationary engine driver but by 1901 he had become a farmer. By the time of the Census in 1911 Henry and the family had moved to a farm in Whitestake which was and still is a small hamlet situated between Farington (Lostock Hall area) and New Longton. The family at the time comprised of; Richard and Alice (parents), John (1872), Richard (1882), Lawrence (1885), Ann (1887), Esther (1889) and William (1900). Henry and his older siblings, John, Richard, Lawrence and Ann were all helping their father on the farm whilst his sister Esther was employed as a cotton weaver and the youngest member of the family, William, was still attending school.

Unfortunately Henry`s service papers have not survived but from later information we know that at the outbreak of war he was still working on the family farm in Whitestake and that he joined the Army at some point during the middle of 1916. Again, we cannot be certain when Henry embarked for France but as he only served overseas with the 10th Battalion LNL he would have gone out as one of many reinforcements. The 10th Battalion had been in France since the beginning of August 1915 coming under the Command of 112th Brigade in the 37th Division. After arriving in France he would have spent a couple of weeks at the Infantry Base Depot before being posted to the 10th Battalion in the field and as later information also notes, Henry was a qualified Signaller.

The Christmas of 1917 saw the Battalion in Murrumbidgee Camp (La Clytte area);

Extract from the Battalion War Diary

25/12/1917 – Christmas Day. As far as possible a day of rest. A big dinner for all members of the Battalion. We are very lucky to be out of the line to enjoy it. Everything a great success. Concert in the Recreation Hut in the evening.

26/12/1917 – Not very much enthusiasm for work this morning. A few working parties go out. The new foot treatment is continued.

27/12/1917 – Training as far as possible. Special inspection of gas appliances. We hear that a lot of gas is being used in the line now. Clearing snow from the road.

28/12/1917 – Training and preparations for moving up into the line on the 29th.

On the 29th December 1917 the Battalion received orders to relieve the 4th Battalion the Middlesex Regiment in the line at BELGIUM WOOD and the JARROCKS FARM SECTOR, relief was completed by 7.30pm. The front line comprised of “B” Coy on the left, “A” Coy on the right with “C” Coy in support and “D” Coy in reserve.

 The Battalion War Diary continues;

1/1/1918 – Very quiet day. Between 7 and 9pm 2/Lt Service and 2 other ranks did a good patrol. Advanced to within 50 yards of enemy post and fired several rifle grenades. The result was excellent for very lights and machine guns were fired instantly giving the whole positions and strength away. All the men are in excellent spirits for the posts are dry and fairly comfortable.

2/1/1918 – Quiet along the Battalion front. Patrolling and wiring was carried on during the night.

3/1/1918 – Fair amount of shelling around Battalion H.Q. between 6-6.30pm. Wiring was continued during the night. The good weather is still holding out and the men are in good spirits.

4/1/1918 – Very quiet. Nothing to report.

5/1/1918 – Quiet all day. We are relieved in the evening by the 13th K.R.R.C. Relief complete by 7.45pm. Battalion moves by light railway from SPOILBANK to RIDGEWOOD Camp in Brigade Support.

6/1/1918 – The day is spent in general cleaning up. Our C.O. Lt. Col. E.A. Cameron is awarded the D.S.O. and accepts the heartiest congratulations of the Battalion.

7/1/1918 – Working parties all day.

Sadly, Henry was killed in action, his date of death recorded as 7th January 1918.  As the War Diary makes no mention of any casualties, it is difficult to ascertain what happened to him. His Company Sergeant Major wrote to Henry`s parents and the following article was published in the Preston Guardian a short while later;

After the war Henry`s parents would have taken receipt of his British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled and would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Henry was eventually buried in Spoilbank Cemetery, the CWGC record of burial noting a date of 3rd April 1922 which suggests that Henry`s remains were discovered out on the battlefield and he was then re-interred in that Cemetery.

Photo taken in 2011

Janet Davis
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