Captain (Temporary Commission) James Lennox Dawson, VC

Biography of Captain (Temporary Commission) James Lennox Dawson, VC

James Lennox Dawson was born in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire on Christmas Day 1891, son of John, a mechanic in Alloa. He first enrolled at the University of Glasgow in 1909 to take Mathematics and Physics. Although he passed his exams that year, he struggled thereafter and left in 1913 after several unsuccessful resits.

He took a job as a science teacher in Hill's Trust School Govan, and attempted his Chemistry degree exam one more, unsuccessful time in 1914. That autumn he enlisted in the 5th Scottish Rifles. He went out to France in March 1915 and was transferred to the Royal Engineers.

On 13th October 1915 he was a Corporal in the 187th Company, Corps of Royal Engineers at Hohenzollern Redoubt, France, when during a gas attack he fearlessly put himself into enemy fire 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 and for this act he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

His VC and other medals are now held by the University's Hunterian Museum.

James received another, more unusual award at a ceremony in Partick in October 1919. A gold watch, which had realised £42 by auction at a special constables' concert in 1916, had been purchased by Sir Thomas Dunlop, Provost of Glasgow and was to be awarded to the first Partick man to gain the coveted Victoria Cross. Presenting it to James Dawson, Bailie Boyle acknowledged that, although he was not a native, his period as a teacher with the Govan School Board had earned him the status of an esteemed citizen of Partick. By that time he was teaching science at Strathbungo Public School.

Along with hundreds of other service personnel wishing to complete their studies, he returned to University in the Summer of 1919. He took a Chemical Laboratory class gaining a pass in the October diet of examinations. However this still did not give him the full range of subjects required for a BSc degree. In a letter to the Clerk of Senate in February 1920 he successfully appealed for the award of his BSc under war service regulations. He was thereafter awarded a special pass in Geography and graduated on 23rd June 1920.

The University records show that he taught in Glasgow between 1921 and 1927. By 1928 he had returned to military service with the Army Educational Corps, and transferred to the Indian Army Ordnance Corps in 1931, where he remained for the rest of his career. In 1952 he notified the University that he was a Colonel and that he had retired to Eastbourne, Sussex. He died there on the 15th February 1967.

 

Summary

Captain (Temporary Commission) James Lennox Dawson, VC
Rank: Captain (Temporary Commission)
Regiment: Royal Engineers
Degree: BSc
Awards: Victoria Cross, Mentioned in Despatches
Comments: N/A
Note/Press Clipping: N/A
Photo ID: Courtesy of the Royal Engineers Library, Chatham

Sources

University of Glasgow student and General Council records: Letter dated 17th February 1920 from James Lennox Dawson to Professor Milligan wishing to have the degree of BSc in Pure Science granted without having to present himself at the forthcoming degree examinations as a wartime concession (GUAS Ref: GUA 32588).

Wikipedia entry about James Lennox Dawson

The Scotsman Digital Archive, Monday 6th October 1919. Please note this a subscription service only.

Photograph: Photograph of James Lennox Dawson courtesy of the Royal Engineers Library, Chatham.

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