Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 10, 1897
Place of BirthNorwich, Norfolk
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinEdith Mabel Dawson (mother), 668 Brandon Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingClerk for CNR
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number147073
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion10th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment668 Brandon Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentJuly 1, 1915
Age at Enlistment17
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19561227
Age at Death59
Buried AtThomson in the Park Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba
PlotSection 18, Plot 510

Dawson, Ernest Jonathan

Private Ernest Jonathan Dawson was 18 years old when he arrived in France in February 1916. He was seriously wounded at the Battle of Mount Sorrel and after spending a year in hospitals in England he was invalided to Canada in June 1917.

Ernest was the oldest son of Arthur Ernest Dawson and Edith Mabel Redgrave of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Arthur and Edith were both from Norfolk, England, Arthur from Norwich and his wife from the nearby village of Kirstead. They were married in Norwich in 1896 and Ernest was born there on 10 October 1897, followed by his sister Hilda two years later. Arthur and his family immigrated to Canada in 1906, arriving in Montreal in June on the SS Dominion. After spending a short time in Winnipeg they settled in Kenora, in northwestern Ontario. Arthur was employed as a butcher at first then found work as a railway clerk. After a few years they returned to Winnipeg and he worked in the CNR shops as a storekeeper.

The war started in August 1914 and Ernest enlisted the following summer, signing up in Winnipeg on 1 July 1915. He was only 17 years old at the time but he passed himself off as 18. He was working as a clerk for the CNR and he said he had served in the militia with the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the 34th Fort Garry Horse. He joined the 78th Overseas Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers). The Canadians had already suffered heavy losses in France and Belgium and battalions in Canada were asked to send reinforcements. Ernest was one of 250 recruits from his unit who were sent to the UK in a draft in the fall of 1915. They embarked on 25 September and arrived in England on 5 October. Ernest was transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion and he trained with them for the next four months.

On 29 February 1916 Ernest was attached to the 10th Battalion and sent to France. He spent some time at the base depot and when he joined his new unit in the field in early April they were near Poperinghe, Belgium. The Canadians were in the Ypres Salient that spring, holding the front line between St. Eloi and Hooge. The 10th had three rotations in the trenches in April and May and they moved into Brigade Reserve on 31 May. The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on the morning of 2 June with a massive artillery bombardment by the Germans. Late that afternoon the 10th Battalion was ordered forward to reinforce the line in Armagh and Square Wood and over the next two days the unit suffered 150 casualties. Ernest was one of the casualties, reported missing on 2 June. He was found two days later, wounded and unconscious, and by 9 June he was a patient at No. 13 General Hospital in Boulogne. He had been hit in the face and the right shoulder by bullets and he had a fractured scapula, a broken jaw and other injuries to his face.

Ernest was listed as seriously ill and he didn’t regain consciousness until 22 June, three weeks after being wounded. In early July he was evacuated to England and admitted to the 2nd Northern General Hospital in Leeds, where he spent the next seven months. An article in the Winnipeg Tribune in July 1916 reported in error that he had returned to trench duty. Ernest lost the sight in his right eye and he had partial paralysis on that side of his face as well as some scarring by his nose. He was moved to the convalescent hospital at Bushey Park on 1 February 1917 but he became ill about ten days later. On 12 February he was admitted to the Western Fever Hospital in Fulham and diagnosed with diphtheria. When he recovered he spent at week at Bushey Park and on 28 March he was transferred to the Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington.

Three months later Ernest was invalided to Canada to continue his recovery. He embarked from Liverpool on 11 June on the HS Araguaya, arriving at Halifax on 23 June. After some time on leave he was admitted to the Manitoba Military Convalescent Hospital in Winnipeg on 2 August. Earlier that summer the Red Cross had opened a convalescent home at Winnipeg Beach. Recovering soldiers who were well enough could spend two weeks at the home, which was on Lake Winnipeg. Ernest went there on 18 August and returned to the hospital in Winnipeg on 4 September. He became an outpatient on 24 September and he was discharged from the army on 31 October, listed as medically unfit for further service. His father Arthur Ernest had also enlisted and he served in France with a field ambulance unit. Two uncles, Harry Dawson and Jonathan Dawson also served overseas and they all survived the war.

After his discharge Ernest returned to his job as a clerk with the CNR. He was married in Winnipeg on 14 May 1919 to Helen Mary Harper. Helen was born in Rosser, Manitoba in 1899, the daughter of George Minto Harper, a farmer, and Margaret Agnes Hagerman. Her father had died when she was six years old and she had one sister, Muriel.

Ernest and Helen made their home in Winnipeg and they had at least one child, their son Donald. Ernest had a long career as a storekeeper for the CNR. He passed away in the Winnipeg General Hospital on 27 December 1956, at age 59. Helen died in 1990 and they are both buried in Garry Memorial Park (Thomson in the Park) in Winnipeg.

Ernest is commemorated on the Canadian National Railways First World War Roll of Honour.

By Becky Johnson

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