Lionel George Dawson

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Captain Lionel George Dawson (11 September, 1885 – 3 September, 1968) was an officer in the Royal Navy.

He was a dog lover as well as an avid and active participant in the Fleet's dramatic productions afloat and ashore. His cousin, Cuthbert Patrick Blake, also served in destroyers in the Great War; they were both considered for command of the new destroyer Termagant in 1916.[1]

Like Henry "Taffrail" Dorling, Dawson was a fair writer, if a bit enamoured of salty jargon. His Flotillas: A Hard-Lying Story is essential work that illuminates the nuances of destroyer work before and during the war. Its lack of fictionalization or blurring of identities of his fellow officer of seaman is especially refreshing. He continued to catalog his naval career with a second volume, Mediterranean Medley.

Life & Career

Lionel Dawson was born the son of a Colonel C. Dawson. Dawson entered the training ship Britannia on 15 September, 1900.

Upon passing out of Britannia with a boost of three months time on 15 January, 1902, Dawson was appointed for a year to the battleship Majestic, flagship of the Channel Fleet. He served as Aide de Camp to Admiral Wilson and received his first seagoing experience in a crew that was heavily populated with men who would enjoy heralded naval careers.[2]

On 18 January, 1903, Dawson was appointed from Majestic to the armoured cruiser Drake.

Dawson was appointed to the armoured cruiser Black Prince on 9 June, 1906.[3]

Dawson was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 31 December, 1907.[4]

Dawson was appointed to his first command, the old torpedo boat T.B. 045, in January 1908.[5]

On 2 April, 1909, he married Marjorie Meryl Atherly at All Saints Church on Margaret Street in London.[6]

Dawson was appointed to the battleship Hannibal of the Home Fleet's Plymouth Division on 1 March, 1910. Dawson professed great antipathy for everything Plymouth and engaged in some "string pulling" to obtain a transfer to the Portsmouth Division's Jupiter on 13 April.

Rear Admiral Brock of the Portsmouth Division had imposed a "no dogs" policy in the formation, much to Dawson's dismay. The Lieutenant contrived to weaken this decree by bringing his old cocker spaniel "Buzz" on a social outing that Brock was attending. Buzz's enthusiastic rapport with the flag officer proved enough to connect to Brock's dog lover within, and word soon bubbled down that "Dawson can have his d—d dog on board, on the understanding that it is always available to take the Admiral for a walk when required."

Buzz proved himself valuable in naval service, for his super-human hearing could pick up foghorns well before anyone else on watch could and he enjoyed being on the bridge, often sleeping at the foot of the helmsman. Buzz would sail for some years further in a variety of postings, but the sailor-spaniel would ultimately be buried in Portsmouth Harbour, wrapped in a boat's ensign, after succumbing to complications from a leg broken in a fall from an accommodation ladder aboard Dreadnought.[7]

Destroyers

Although he had been noted for submarine service in January of 1910, it was to be destroyer work that would highlight Dawson's naval career. Fresh from Jupiter, he was appointed in command of the "A" Class destroyer Salmon on 21 December, 1910. The posting would last about five months.[8]

Upon returning to a harbour berth after a firing exercise, Dawson was found at fault for a collision between his command, Bruizer and the Tribal Class destroyer Crusader. It was determined that he should have warned the other ship that he was coming alongside.[9]

A single week in the destroyer Wizard, whose inward-turning screws rendered her most difficult to control in confined spaces, was time enough to permit Dawson two docking accidents. After his most recent mishap in hitting Flying Fish on 7 November, 1911, Dawson was appointed Lieutenant & Commander of the first-class torpedo boat T.B. 14.[10] In March, 1912, he damaged her rudder in a dock and on 19 May of the following year was admonished by the Admiral of Patrols for striking a buoy with his torpedo boat.[11]

Upon being superseded in her by Frank Lumb in mid 1913, his chain of destroyer commands was broken by an appointment to the battleship Dreadnought. He would write of the discomforts of this ship with its officers berthed aft, and of the comforts of his superiors and fellow officers in the months leading up to the war. He clearly preferred command of smaller vessels to watch-keeping in the mother of capital ships.

In early 1914, Dawson underwent a series of medical treatments that left him unfit until 11 March, when he returned to Dreadnought, where he'd find himself when war started.

Great War

While waiting an appointment in London, Dawson was sent to take charge of the destroyer Derwent in Portsmouth, as her captain had taken ill. Dawson rushed right down and promptly snared a buoy with her propellor while taking dinner. Freeing himself without apparent injury to the shaft or propellor, Derwent escorted a small ship to France and had to shut down the suspect shaft in hard weather on the return trip. Dawson left the ship after just about two days, looking over his shoulder as she entered dock. The accident did not appear to hazard his career.[12]

A proper appointment found him soon enough as Dawson was appointed in command of the destroyer Lurcher in late September, 1915.[13]

Dawson was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander on 31 December, 1915.[14]

In December, 1916, Dawson was appointed in command of the "R" Class destroyer Salmon upon her commissioning. He supposed that he was the only man ever to command two ships of the same name. Among his junior officers in Salmon was Lieutenant Ralph Berthon Gossage, who would serve with him in future and be a feature of his autobiographical works.[15]

Salmon collided with her squadron-mate Sable some time in 1917, ramming her in the Captain's cabin when the destroyers were proceeding in fog at 20 knots, despite each ship throwing its helm over and backing one engine hard to assist. Sable's commander, Woodward, shouted for Dawson to "keep your stem in the hole," but the ships separated. Dawson thought it fortunate that his ship struck just aft of Sable's main engine room, whose large volume may have meant her loss. The two returned to Rosyth, Sable with her quarter deck nearly awash, to be docked in the same dock. Their undocking was delayed by a day or two by damage Salmon sustained when a horse and cart fell into the dock, apparently through an error by the carter. The horse was killed by the accident.[16]

After a lazy summer of 1917, much of it berthed in the Firth of Forth and the ship's men accommodated by Malaya for amenities only a large ship can offer, Dawson recalls that the closest he got to the enemy in Salmon was when they fired a few long range shots at a U-Boat they found charging its batteries. It dived and evaded them with seeming ease. Salmon went south for a refit in February of 1918.[17]

On 9 April, 1918, he was superseded in command of Salmon. In early May he commenced an appointment for duty with the Trade Division, a shore-based role apparently necessitated by further medical issues. Although his Service Record is atypically coy on the nature of the malady,[18] Dawson's own book records his ailment as being digestive issues and "nervous dyspepsia", which is "an extremely common complaint, and is, I suppose, a first cousin to neurasthenia."[19]

Interbellum

On 22 January, 1919, Dawson was appointed in command of the destroyer Tobago, travelling in February up to meet her at Invergordon with a collection of housekeeping items donated by the people of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.[20]

Dawson was re-appointed in her upon his promotion to the rank of Commander on 30 June, 1920. He was superseded soon thereafter and undertook some work in Intelligence at Royal Naval College, Greenwich. Two days before Christmas, Dawson was directed to report to the battleship Benbow to provide intelligence duties for R/A Fourth Battle Squadron. He followed a transfer of flag to Benbow in March of 1921.[21]

A three month stint in command of the Valhalla in 1923 was followed by some training, first in anti-submarine warfare and ASDIC, then a Signals Course at Portsmouth in 1924 and further A/S study.[22]

In 1928, Dawson received a Senior Officer's Training Course and then was appointed for a year's work inside the Admiralty with the Naval Intelligence Division, vice Knox-Little. When this finished in January, 1929, Dawson was appointed to a two year period of command of the convoy sloop Heather.[23]

Dawson was placed on the Retired List at his own request with the rank of Captain on 21 September, 1931.[24]

He remarried on 10 February, 1939, to Georgina Alwilda, formerly Palmer, née Lobnitz.[25]

World War II

Dawson was called up in August 1939 to become Captain in Charge of Small Craft, Dover. On 17 September, he was appointed in command of Dover's new shore establishment, H.M.S. Lynx, and reappointed in charge of small craft. As 1940 rolled around, his role became that of Maintenance Captain to Flag Officer in Command, Dover. Landing craft soon fell under his purview at the end of 1940, when he was appointed to Victory, additional.

He was mentioned in despatches on 16 August, 1940.[26]

In 1942, he was appointed as Chief Staff Officer to "Commandant, C.T.C.", and as Chief Naval Instructor C.T.C., Inverary. He continued in this capacity with an acting rank of Captain until he reverted to the Retired List on 15 June, 1945.[27]

After the war, he would help Walter Henry Cowan pen his memoirs.

See Also

Bibliography

  • Dawson, Captain Lionel. (1935). Flotillas: A Hard-Lying Story. London: Rich & Cowan Ltd.
  • Dawson, Captain Lionel. (1935). Mediterranean Medley. London: Rich & Cowan Ltd.
  • Dawson, Lionel George (1949). Sound of the Guns: Being an Account of the Wars and Service of Admiral Sir Walter Cowan. Oxford: Pen-in-Hand.

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Kenneth B. M. Churchill
as Captain of H.M. T.B. 45
Captain of H.M. T.B. 045
16 Jan, 1908[28][29] – Dec, 1909[30]
Succeeded by
Douglas A. Oliver
Preceded by
Lionel G. Preston
Captain of H.M. T.B. 81
Dec, 1909[31] – 14 Jan, 1910[32]
Succeeded by
Robert G. Hamond
Preceded by
Charles H. Jones
Captain of H.M.S. Salmon
21 Dec, 1910[33][34] – 24 May, 1911[35]
Succeeded by
?
Preceded by
Kennedy G. Darracott-Brooke
Captain of H.M.S. Bruizer
24 May, 1911[36] – 31 Oct, 1911[37]
Succeeded by
Percy G. Brown
Preceded by
Frederic W. Clarkson
Captain of H.M.S. Wizard
31 Oct, 1911[38] – 7 Nov, 1911[39]
Succeeded by
Alexander G. Fleming
Preceded by
John J. C. Ridley
Captain of H.M. T.B. 14
7 Nov, 1911[40] – 1 Jul, 1913[41]
Succeeded by
Frank Lumb
Preceded by
William H. S. S. Thomson
Captain of H.M.S. Derwent
30 Aug, 1915[42] – 3 Sep, 1915[43]
Succeeded by
Henry R. James
Preceded by
Wilfred Tomkinson
Captain of H.M.S. Lurcher
25 Sep, 1915[44][45] – 28 Nov, 1916[46]
Succeeded by
Eric Q. Carter
Preceded by
New Command
Captain of H.M.S. Salmon
2 Dec, 1916[47] – 9 Apr, 1918[48]
Succeeded by
William B. Mackenzie
Preceded by
Frederick E. Raw
Captain of H.M.S. Tobago
22 Jan, 1919[49]c. Sep, 1920[50]
Succeeded by
Humphrey E. Archer
Preceded by
Henry I. M. L. Scott
Captain of H.M.S. Valhalla
26 Jun, 1923[51] – Sep, 1923[52]
Succeeded by
Eric Q. Carter
Preceded by
Eric Q. Carter
Captain of H.M.S. Valhalla
11 Apr, 1924[53][54] – 14 Jul, 1925[55]
Succeeded by
John M. Porter
Preceded by
Reginald V. Holt
Captain of H.M.S. Vampire
c. Aug, 1925[56][57] – Jan, 1927[58]
Succeeded by
Edward de F. Renouf
Preceded by
Valentine M. Wyndham-Quin
Captain of H.M.S. Vesper
24 Jan, 1927[59] – Oct, 1927[60]
Succeeded by
Colin S. Thomson
Preceded by
Edward C. Thornton
Captain of H.M.S. Heather
18 Jan, 1929[61] – 12 Jan, 1931[62]
Succeeded by
Alfred G. Hine

Footnotes

  1. Dawson. Flotillas. p. 157.
  2. Dawson. Flotillas. pp. 21-2.
  3. The Navy List. (January, 1907). p. 284.
  4. The Navy List. (March, 1913). p. 21.
  5. Dawson. Flotillas. p. 63.
  6. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  7. Dawson. Flotillas. pp. 80-2. The book contains a fair number of "Buzz" anecdotes.
  8. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  9. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  10. The Navy List. (March, 1913). p. 399.
  11. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  12. Dawson. Flotillas. pp. 138-143.
  13. Smith. Hard Lying. p. 126.
  14. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  15. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  16. Dawson. Flotillas. pp. 199-201.
  17. Dawson. Flotillas. pp. 199-201.
  18. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  19. Dawson. Flotillas. p. 203.
  20. Dawson. Mediterranean Medley. p. 3.
  21. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  22. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  23. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  24. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  25. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208. The names are subject to interpretation in the source.
  26. Supplement to the The London Gazette, no. 34925. 16 August, 1940, p. 5068.
  27. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 244.
  28. Dawson. Flotillas. p. 63.
  29. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50/77
  30. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50/77
  31. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50/77
  32. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50/77
  33. The Monthly Navy List. (March, 1911). p. 371.
  34. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  35. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  36. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  37. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  38. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  39. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  40. The Navy List. (March, 1913). p. 399.
  41. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  42. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  43. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  44. The Navy List. (December, 1916). p. 395y.
  45. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  46. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  47. The Navy List. (November, 1917). p. 397t.
  48. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  49. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  50. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  51. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  52. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  53. The Navy List. (July, 1924). p. 277.
  54. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  55. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  56. Holt Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/49/179. f. 240.
  57. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  58. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  59. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  60. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  61. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.
  62. Dawson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 208.