Lance Corporal Harold Brookes DAWSON


Regiment/Service:
Manchester Regiment
Unit:
22nd (7th Manchester Pals) Battalion
Service Number:
20080
Date of Death:
2 June 1916
Age:
20
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Pier and Face 13 A and 14 C..

Personal History:
Harold was born in Wrexham, Denbigh, Wales, in the December quarter 1895, the son of Thomas (Bookbinder) and Clara Dawson. In 1901 (Census RG 13/3269) the family was living at 5 Recreation Road, Buxton, and Harry had an older sister, Bertha, and a younger sister, Elsie.

By 1911 (Census RG 14/21233) another daughter, Edith Brookes, had joined the family, now at 56 Cliff Road, Fairfield, Buxton, and Harold was working as an "Apprentice Cabinet Maker".


Military History:
According to the SDGW database, Harold enlisted at Manchester, but unfortunately, his Service papers have been destroyed during a Second World War bombing raid. His Medal Index Card also gives no indication when he entered the War, which tends to mean, as he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star, was after December 1915. In its report 'The Buxton Advertiser' (1st July 1916) stated that Harold enlisted in November 1914 and had been ".. missing since June 2nd last", but ".. it is the fervent wish of all that (he) might still be found".

The 22nd (Service) Battalion (7th City) was formed in Manchester on 21st November 1914 by the Lord Mayor and City. It moved to Morecambe in January 1915 and in April 1915 moved to Grantham and placed under command of 91st Brigade in 30th Division. Their last move was to Larkhill in September 1915.

Harold's Battalion, the 22nd, landed at Boulogne on the 11th November 1915, probably the 12th, and on the 20th December 1915 the 91st Brigade transferred to the 7th Division. The Battalion had their first experience in the trenches training with the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

In February 1916 they arrived at the Somme, opposite the German held fortified village of Mametz, east of Fricourt. On the 2nd June 'A' Company carried out a trench raid on a German listening post. After weeks of rehearsal, sixty men attacked after a substantial bombardment. The attack was a success but not without cost as the problem of uncut wire, which was to be a major factor in the oncoming Battle of the Somme, caused many casualties.

The following account of the raid where Harold died was prepared by Matthew Vanitas:

"As part of the preparations for the Somme Offensive, "A" Company, 22nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment was ordered to carry out a raid on the German trenches at a place code named by the British as Bulgar Point, a German post south east of the village of Mametz. The raid was to take place at 11.00 pm, 2nd June, 1916. Five weeks before that date, the officers and men of the Company rehearsed their roles on a model of Bulgar Point dug behind the British lines. Everyone knew how to carry out their parts, and that the objective of the raid was to wreak havoc and take prisoners.

At 10.20 pm, on the 2nd of June, a bombardment of 40 minutes commenced by howitzers, 60 and 18 pounder field guns, and trench mortars in support of the raiders. It was expected that the barbed wire in front of Bulgar Point would be sufficiently destroyed for the raiders to make a relatively easy entry to the German trench, and that many of the defenders would have been killed or wounded by the shelling.

As the bombardment continued, the raiders collected at Minden Post in the British line. Lieutenant E .Oldham and 2nd Lieutenant E. A. Street would lead 40 men through the German barbed wire and into Bulgar Point as soon as the bombardment ended. Lieutenant Burchill and 2nd Lieutenant Cansino with 20 men would then disperse in no-man's land to prevent flank attacks on the raiders, and to provide support as the raiders returned.

Upon reaching the barbed wire, the raiders found that it had not been sufficiently cut, and they had to get through by forcing gaps in it themselves. Lieutenant Oldham remained at the point of entry, just west of Bulgar Point, whilst 2nd Lieutenant Street went forward with the bombers. Five large dugouts were bombed. Four prisoners were taken, although only 2 of them survived the journey to the British line.

Disaster struck as the raiders attempted to get back through the relatively undamaged barbed wire. Considerable difficulty and delay was experienced in finding ways through the wire. Within seconds the Germans began to bomb and machine gun the raiders. The bombardment and the bombing by the raiders had not prevented a very rapid response by the defenders. The casualties began to mount. 2nd Lieutenant Street was seen to be stuck on the wire and was killed. He had run the greatest risk because he was the last to leave the German trench. Lieutenant Burchill and 2nd Lieutenant Cansino went to his aid and were also killed. A further six of the raiders were killed. Lieutenant Oldham was wounded, along with 22 others.

Killed on the Raid: 2nd and 3rd June 1916:
Lt Vivian Burchill; 2nd Lt Joshua Cansino; 2nd Lt Edmund Algar Street; Sgt William Robert Thompson 20122; Cpl William Henry Davies 20019; L/Cpl John Arthur Cockcroft 21108; L/Cpl Harold Brookes Dawson 20080; Pte Charles William Fox 20690; Pte James Thorp 21068.

The following me were decorated for their actions that day: Lt. E Oldham, Military Cross; Sgt. E. Kewly, DCM; Pte. Dronsfield, MM; Pte. Worstenholme, MM.

The Commander of A Company, Captain Alfred Edward Bland, was devastated at the loss of all his officers. However, he regarded the raid as a success. He does not seem to anticipate that the failure of the bombardment to cut the barbed wire and inflict serious damage on the German trenches would be a major issue in the forthcoming Somme Offensive. He was killed in the first hours of the Offensive, on the 1st July, 1916, along with many other members of the 22nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment."

The "Buxton Advertiser" originally reported Harold  as "missing". However, CWGC Records show that three Officers and six other ranks, including  Harold, died on the 2 June [see Account above]. All but one now have no known grave and are commemorated, with Harold, on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.



Footnote:
· 2/Lt William Edward BRUNT, of the same Battalion, also commemorated on the Buxton Memorial,
  was killed in action on the 1 July 1916.
· Private Archie Leslie VICKERS also of the same Battalion, also commemorated on the Buxton Memorial,
  died of wounds on the 7 December 1916


Sources:
· "The Buxton Advertiser" - 1 July 1916
· The Manchester Regiment 1899 - 1958 - The Twentysecond (Service) Battalion

Link to CWGC Record
The Thiepval Memorial
L/Cpl Dawson's name on the Memorial
L/Cpl Harold Dawson
poppy
about the 22nd Manchester 'Pals' Battalion  
Thomas & Clara's Grave in Buxton Cemetery