My World War 1 Soldiers (3) William Vesey Dawson

William Vesey Dawson (390)  1892 - 1974

This is the third post in a series of posts over the next few years to remember all the men in my extended family who enlisted in World War 1.

Originally I had identified 26 soldiers who enlisted between 20 August 1914 and 2 November 1918.  However, further checking has now revealed a total of thirty five enlistment.  Of the thirty five, five were killed overseas or died here in Australia.

William Vesey Dawson was the fifth child of William Henry Dawson and his wife Bridget Mylan.  Twenty two year old Bill enlisted in Casino, NSW on 25th October 1914,  just a month after his older brother Ernest. Bill worked as a saddler and a general farm labourer. Like many young men from the north coast of NSW Bill (No 390) became a member of the 5th Light Horse.

William Vesey Dawson No 390
(Dawson family collection.)

Brothers, William Vesey Dawson and Ernest Lee Dawson. Photo taken at Alexandria
prior to embarkation for Dardanelles 9 July 1915. (Photo: Dawson family collection.)

Brigadier L.C. Wilson who later wrote The Fifth Light Horse Regiment, 1914-1919 stated that men were selected to join the Light Horse after tests in horse riding and shooting. 

Six weeks after enlistment on 12th December 1914, the Bill's Regiment went to Liverpool in Sydney and on 20th December they embarked on the SS Persic Transport No A 34. After a voyage of 42 days they arrived at Alexandria and immediately went to Maadi, near Cairo. It was here that the 5th Light Horse undertook training for mounted operations.

On 15th May, 1915 they left Maadi for Gallipoli and arrived at Cape Helles on the evening of 18th May, 1915. At 6:30 pm the next day they arrived at Anzac Cove. Troops were successfully landed on the morning of 20th May 1915 with no casualties. They spent the first day digging in and establishing communication trenches.

Wilson (p. 22-23) describes life on the Peninsula :

Normal life on the Peninsula embraced night post duty, night patrols, day observation, sniping, digging, wiring, ration and water carrying.... Night post duty insisted of watching tactical points or the trench system, to stop a rush, give the alarm and serve and listen for enemy movement...All ranks were ordered to sleep in their boots and clothes during the whole time we were on Gallipoli...It must be remembered that from the end of May, when we first went into the trenches, until the morning of the 20th December,...the Regiment was never for a day out of the front firing line, and that line was, in parts, only a matter of seconds from the enemy trenches.

While at Gallipoli Bill was part of the B Squadron Cookhouse. 

Informal group portrait of five cooks at the 5th Light Horse Brigade's B Squadron cookhouse. The cookhouse consists of an uncovered wooden structure built into a mound of earth. Hanging from the roof are four sides of mutton or goat. Identified is 390 William Vesey Dawson (later DCM), B Troop, B Squadron, 5th Light Horse, left, holding a knife and sharpening steel. A photograph in an album relating to the service of Captain Edward Oswald Straker, 5th Australian Light Horse (5ALH).

Bill Dawson was one of only 49 men from the 5th Light Horse who remained on the Peninsula from May until December. He was listed to evacuate on the night of 18-19th December.

He was later involved in military operations which culminated in the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917. It was here that he was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Acknowledgment was sent to his father William Henry Dawson. Unfortunately Harry had been dead for 2 years and the letter would have been received by his wife Bridget. 

4 October 1918

Dear Sir,

I have much pleasure in forwarding hereunder copy of extract from fourth Supplement, No 30664 to the London Gazette, dated 30th April, 1918, relating to the conspicuous services rendered by your son, No. 390 Company Sergeant-Major (temporary) W.V. Dawson, Camel Transport Corps (5th Light Horse Regiment)


"HIS MAJESTY THE KING has been pleased to award the Distinguished Conduct Medal to the undermentioned non-Commissioned Officer for gallantry and distinguised sservice in the Field: -

No. 390 Trumpeter (remporary Company Sergeant-Major)

W.V. Dawson

For conspicuous gallenty and devotion to duty. He showed great initiative and skill during the operation and set a splendid example to his men."

The above has been promulgated in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No. 150, dated 24th September, 1918.

Yours faithfully
Officer i/c Base Records.

Bill Dawson finally returned to Australia aboard the Argyllshire and arrived in Sydney on 13th April, 1919. He had spent 4 years and 138 days in the army. All but 80 days were spend abroad.


Brennan, S 1992Kilronan to Franklin and beyond - The story of Dr William Lee Dawson and his descendantsAM PrintingTamworth, NSW.

Wilson, L. Brigadier-General 1926The Fifth Light Horse Regiment, 1914-1919, Sydney.


  1. What a blessing to have these photos, I'm envious!! :-)

  2. Keep looking. Someone in your family may have some photos somewhere. I think I come from a family of hoarders, which can have its advantages.


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