My WW1 soldiers (2) - Ernest Lee Dawson

Ernest Lee Dawson (500) (1885 - 1968)

This is the second 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.

So far I have identified 26 soldiers who enlisted between 20 August 1914 and 2 November 1918 and I feel sure I have missed some. Of the twenty six, five were killed overseas or died here in Australia.

My aim is to publish these posts on the 100th anniversary of their enlistment.

Ernest Lee Dawson (my great uncle) was the eldest child of William Henry Dawson and his wife Bridget Mylan. He was born in the Cooma district of NSW in 1885.

On 25th August 1914, less than three weeks after the outbreak of the First World War Ernie, a farmer who lived at Old Bonalbo enlisted in the 2nd Light Horse Regiment in Lismore.

Ernie had previous military experience. In 1906, he answered an advertisement to join the Shanghai Municipal Council Police Force, as a recruit. He was appointed on 10th January 1907, with four others, for an initial three year contract. This was part of a big increase in the force, sixty being recruited that year, as part of a total overhaul of its structures and procedures. The Shanghai Municipal Police was a British run police force founded in 1854 to police the International Settlement at Shanghai. This area was administered by international merchants and bankers who paid taxes to, and controlled the municipal council.  The role of the police

was to provide an orderly environment for Shanghai’s foreign trade and commerce.     Their prime responsibility was to collect intelligence on political demonstrations, strikes, labour and social unrest, foreign and domestic subversive activities and areas of dispute between the International Settlement and the Chinese government 

Reference (This link is no longer appears current)

Captain's Parade at Shanghai Racecourse

Ernie would have learnt to speak Shanghainese, as this became compulsory in 1903. Men were expected to study for an hour each day in their own time, and were given an extra day’s leave each month. Cash bonuses were received when they passed language exams. Language proficiency was a requirement for promotion. (Bickers, R. Empire Made Me, p. 80-81). Ernest was appointed Sergeant in 1909 and became a 2nd Class Sergeant before he left Shanghai in 1912. (Bickers, R. Correspondence with Sharon Brennan). 

Ernest Lee Dawson, 2nd Light Horse Regiment

The 2nd Light Horse had been raised at Enoggera in Queensland on 18th August. Most of the recruits came from Queensland but many, like Ernie were from northern New South Wales. They sailed from Brisbane on the transport ship Star of England on 25th September and disembarked in Egypt on 9th December. 

The 2nd Light Horse Regiment deployed to Gallipoli without its horses and landed there on 12th May 1915, joining the New Zealand and Australian Division. It played a defensive role for most of the campaign but did attack the Turkish trenches opposite Quinn’s Post, one of the most contested positions along the ANZAC line. The first assault was mown down and fortunately the officer commanding the attack had the wisdom and courage to call it off. The 2nd was withdrawn from the front line in September and left the peninsula on 18th December. (Australian War Memorial)

Suffering from enteric fever (typhoid) Ernie Dawson was evacuated from Gallipoli on 5th August 1915 and taken to No 21 General Hospital in Alexandria. He was then transferred to London aboard the Letitia on 2nd October and admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley England on 12th October. He also spent time at Perham Downs, a small brigade camp hospital. He was reported ill in The Sydney Morning Herald on 12th November, 1915.

Ernie was later transferred to the Australian Army Ordnance Corps (AAOC). The AAOC were responsible for providing Ordnance support to Australian operations in Egypt, Gallipoli, France, Belgium and Palestine. Although most soldiers were returned to Australia very quickly at the end of the war, as a member of the AAOC Ernie Dawson was required to remain and assist with collection of all equipment. As a result he did not return to Australia until  6 May 1920 aboard the Ceramic. (Reference)

Ernest Lee Dawson and Walter Waldo Seabrook were 3rd cousins, great grandchildren of  Henry William Seabrook and his wife Sarah White.


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