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Lawson, E., Sgt., V.C. (1955)

Photo : Barry Lawson

Photo : Barry Lawson

Edward and Ursula on Holiday. Thomas on Balcony

Photo : Barry Lawson

Edward Lawson VC Reunion Dinner invitation

Edward Lawson Medals

Edward Lawson Headstone

In Heaton and Byker Cemetery is the family headstone for Private Edward Lawson V.C., who died 02/07/1955.

Edward 'Ned' Lawson was born the only child on the 11th April 1873 at 87 Blandford Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to Thomas Lawson, [born July 1845, died 9th April 1884], a cattle drover and his wife Eleanor, nee Scott, [born 18th November 1854, died June 1885]. She was the daughter of William James Scott, born 1834, died 1869 and his wife Margaret Ann Deas, born 1836 died October 1859. Eleanor and Thomas got married on the 5th August 1872. By 1881 they were residing at 37 George Street, Westgate, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Edward was a scholar.

Because his parents died so young, Edward then resided with his aunt and uncle, his mother's sister Margaret Ann Render, [nee Scott], born 17th November 1856, baptised on the 12th April 1857, died March 1943, [daughter of William James Scott, born 1839 died 1869, he actually was her step-father & uncle], and Margaret nee Deas, [birth date not known], and her husband William Render, [born 1855 died September 1900], they were married on the 9th April 1881 at the Register Office, Newcastle upon Tyne. The Renders resided at 63 Corbridge Street, Byker, in 1891. By 1901, Margaret was a widow and was residing with four children at 186 Parker Street, Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. By 1911 she was residing at 216 Parker Street. In 1939 she was now residing at 50 Cresswell Street, Newcastle upon Tyne. [Margaret Ann had resided in Blenheim Street at no 51 and 89 between 1861 and 1871].

Thomas Lawson parents were John Lawson born June 1816, died 1855, and his wife Elizabeth nee Hughes, born 1822, married in 1842.

Edward Lawson was apprenticed to a Mr Richardson ? for about a year after leaving school as a slater. Edward enlisted on the 27th August 1890 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. This was the commencement date used for his army service record. He joined the Gordon Highlanders at their Castle Hill Depot at Aberdeen on the 2nd September 1890. He was 5 feet 5 and three quarters inches high, weight 116lbs, fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. With a scar tissue mark on his left index finger. His service number was 3456 with the rank of private.

Edward after training was then posted into the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders on the 20th November 1890 at Curragh Camp in Ireland. On the 7th January 1892 he goes absent without leave for 7 days, between the 7th January and the 13th January 1992. [This results in 7 days forfeit off his total service]. He is then transferred to the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders on the 27th January 1893. Edward has by 30th September 1896 been awarded a Good Conduct pay award.

The 1st Battalion was serving on the North West Frontier in India. And Edward Lawson was sent to India on the 27th April 1893. He served with distinction throughout the Indian campaign. He was present at the actions at the Swat and Panjkora rivers, the capture of Umra Khan's stronghold, and the subsequent actions leading to the relief of the beleaguered in Chitral Fort. According to a newspaper, when, on another occasion, one of his comrades was hit by a bullet and fell into a dried up river bed, Lawson carried him safely to camp.

The Tirah Campaign, 1897-98. In August 1897 there was an uprising of Afridi tribesmen against the British control of the region. The loss of the Khyber Pass on the 27th August was a great loss, and the hordes of wild Afghans swept into the Kohat and Kurram Valleys. A force of 34,500 British and Indian troops was assembled, under the command of Lieut-General Lockhart, to be known as the Tirah Field Force. The column required 20,000 non-combatants and 60,000 mules, donkeys, camels, bullocks and elephants, stretching for miles along the road leading into the heart of the country of the Afridis and Oraksais. The 1st Gordons and the KOSB had the benefit of being fit and acclimatised while other regiments, like the Dorsets and Northamptons had been stationed in lowland areas far to the south and some of their number had contracted cholera.

The Heights of Dargai, rising to 6,500 ft, were occupied by Orakzais who were at the summit of a very difficult position to attack. The track leading to the top was a zig-zag path but before that there was a 200 yard 'saddle' of sloping open ground that had to be crossed. There was no cover on this part of the approach except for a a rocky outcrop halfway across. The Field Force made two attacks on the Heights, on the 18th October and again on the 20th. The first attack, on the 18th, was made by the 2nd KOSB and the 1st/3rd Gurkhas. It was relatively easy, and successful but the victorious battalions had to vacate the Heights due to lack of water and because Lockhart thought that keeping a force in position there would reveal his intended line of advance. The withdrawal soon ran into difficulties because the Heights were already being re-occupied by a large force of Afridis and Orakzais. The Gordons were required to take up positions around the open space to provide covering fire, This developed into a fire fight that caused the death of Major Jennings-Bramley and the wounding of 16 men. They were hard pressed but remained calm. The final rearguard of one half-company commanded by Captain Kerr was rushed in a surprise attack. The enemy were only within a few yards of them when they managed to shoot the first six; the remaining tribesmen turned and fled. Major-General Yeatman-Biggs commanded the force that was ordered to re-take the Dargai Heights. He first sent the 1st Dorsets and 1st/2nd Gurkhas, supported by the 2nd Derbys. Although their attempts at reaching the other side of the open space were extremely brave they were unable to make progress. This attack went on for 4 hours before they admitted failure.

Yeatman-Biggs then ordered the Gordons forward. As they approached to start point they had to pass wounded men being carried away. They must have wondered how much more they would be able to accomplish, but they stepped up manfully and prepared to clamber up the slope, led by Major Macbean and inspired by their commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Mathias. The Highlanders were determined to show the English regiments how it should be done. The artillery pumped shell after shell onto the Heights and the Dorsets and Derbys provided covering fire as the Gordons stood ready to sweep up the slopes with the 3rd Sikhs in support, and the Gurkhas as well. Colonel Mathias said, "Highlanders, the General says the position is to be taken at all costs. The Gordons will take it."

The tribesmen poured down a heavy fire on the Gordons as they charged forward across the open space. Lieutenant Lamont was the first officer to be killed, along with two men. Major Macbean was badly wounded and had to remain where he was. Four more officers were wounded, including Lieutenant Dingwall who was rescued by Private Lawson who won a VC that day. The other VC winner was Piper Findlater who was shot through both feet and dragged himself to a rock where he propped himself up to play a stirring tune on his bagpipes. The Gordons' casualties were surprisingly light for such a high risk attack: one officer and two men killed, 6 officers and 35 men wounded.

Source : British Empire.co.uk

Lance-Corporal Edward Lawson's award was presented to him personally by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on Saturday afternoon, 25th June 1898. He then returned home to work in the Chillingham Assembly Rooms Heaton. The Newcastle Evening Chronicle interviewed him and they stated he was a modest, unassuming man, little disposed to talk of his own exploits.

Newcastle Journal Tuesday 24/05/1898.

Looking Around. Private Lawson V.C.

In the top list of honours for the Tirah expedition there appears the name of Private E. Lawson of the Gordon Highanders. This brave soldier, at the heights of Dargal, carried Lieutenant Dingwall. who was grievously wounded, out of a heavy fire, and thereafter returned and brought in Private Macmillon, Private Lawson being himself wounded in two places. This wearer of the Victoria Cross is a Newcastle man. But there is no way, as far as I know, of locally memorialising the circumstances. Would it not be a fine thing to have erected in some public place, say [NUT035] Eldon Square or the Leazes, a plain pillar, on which might be engraved the names of such local heroes?

Lieutenant Kenneth Dingwall had severe gunshot wounds to his knee and stomach. Edward had flesh wounds to his right arm, 3516 Private McMillan, [a private that Edward also saved], had severe gunshot wounds.

Edward Lawson returns home from India in April 1898, and is now a reservist.

On the 11th January 1899, Edward Lawson, [now out of the army from the 20th April 1898], was at the Chillingham Assembly Rooms Heaton, for an evening event to honour him and his V.C. exploits that had been organised by some of his friends. He had been awarded the Indian Medal with three bars, Relief of Chitral 1895, Punjab Frontier 1897-8 and the Tirah 1897-8. And 'For Valour' the V.C.. A Mr Alex Turnbull said "Private Lawson was a Byker lad whom all Tynesiders ought to be proud of."

On the 30th January 1899, he re-joins the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders at Edinburgh. Private Lawson is now in Africa fighting in the Anglo Boer War. On the 28th March 1899 he is appointed a paid Lance-Corporal.

The 1st Battalion had been abroad since 1882 serving in Egypt, Sudan, Malta, Ceylon and India. In 1898 they were to be sent home from India after 16 years overseas, and replaced by the 2nd Battalion who had remained in the UK since the First Boer War of 1881. When the 2nd arrived in India the two battalions briefly met each other, a rare occurrence, then the 1st headed off to the UK. They were in Edinburgh in November 1899 when they were ordered to sail to the Cape, the order being received on the 1st November, they sailed on the 'Cheshire' ship number 99310, on the 9th November. In September 1899 the 2nd Battalion received the order to proceed from Bombay to Durban. Both the battalions were destined to sustain heavy casualties in major battles soon after arriving in South Africa, the 1st at Magersfontein and the 2nd at Elandslaagte.

Edward returned home from the Boer War on the 21st October 1902 and received the Queens South African Medal with 4 clasps, Paardeberg, Dreifantein, Cape Colony and Transvaal, and the King's South African Medal with clasps 1901 and 1902, and was discharged as time expired on the 31st October 1902 after serving 12 years and 40 days. His service should have been 12 years 66 days, but he forfeited 26 days due to misconduct, including a trial and a period of being absent without leave.

Edward married Ursula 'Cilla' Robina, nee Scott, [born at 42, Frank Terrace, Gateshead on the 23rd July 1884, 3rd daughter of Walter Scott, born 28th August 1856, a cartman, and his wife Robina Elliott, {nee Paxton}, born March 1859, at Sacriston], died 2nd February 1925, she was residing at 88 Avondale Road, on the 14th March 1908, at the Newcastle-upon-Tyne register office. Edward was residing then at 128 Malcolm Street. Eventually moving to 14 Matthew Street, Byker, until the autumn of 1925. They had seven children.

Robina Elliott Paxton parents were Thomas Paxton born 23rd April 1832, Scotland and his wife Jane Elliot born 1831, they were married on the 10th January 1861

Walter Scott and Robina were married in 1882. In 1901, the Scott family had moved to 10 Lowery Street.

Edward re-enlisted with the Northern Cyclist Battalion on the 31st May 1910 at Hutton Terrace, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Now 5 feet seven and three quarters inches high. The Northern Cyclist Battalion was a bicycle infantry battalion of the Territorial Force, part of the British Army. Formed in 1908, it served in the United Kingdom throughout the First World War and in 1920 it was converted as part of the Royal Garrison Artillery.

The majority of the battalion was newly raised at Sunderland (later at Newcastle-on-Tyne) in October 1908, as a bicycle infantry battalion of the British Army's Territorial Force. One existing cyclist company at Sunderland transferred from the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. Initially designated as the 8th (Cyclist) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, in 1910 the new unit was separated from that regiment and redesignated as the independent Northern Cyclist Battalion.

In August 1914, the battalion was headquartered at the Hutton Terrace drill hall, Sandyford Road in Newcastle-on-Tyne and had the following companies: 'A' Company – Sunderland, 'B' Company – Sunderland, 'C' Company – West Hartlepool, 'D' Company – Chester-le-Street. 'E' Company – Newcastle-on-Tyne, 'F' Company – Blyth, 'G' Company – Whitley Bay and 'H' Company – Newcastle-on-Tyne.

At the outbreak of the First World War, the battalion was in Northern Command, unattached to any higher formation. It was to be used as mobile infantry, and for work on signals, scouting and similar activities.

He is given a new service number 498 for 4 years duration as a Territorial, and he is promoted Corporal on the 24th July 1910, then appointed Lance Sergeant on the 1st December 1910. On the 7th November, Edward starts a course of Instruction at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne which he passes with the comments Very Good, on the 21st November 1910. Edward was promoted Sergeant on the 23rd March 1912. As a Territorial he was required to attend Annual Camps and in 1910 this was held at Alnmouth, [21st July 1910 to the 7th August 1910], with Cycle, his rank then Corporal, 1911, now a Lance –Sergeant, Seaton Sluice, [29th July to the 12th August 1911], 1912 Redcar, [28th July to the 11th August 1912], and by 1913 [17th July 1913 to the 3rd August 1913], as a Sergeant, at Seaton Sluice again.

In accordance with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw. 7, c.9) which brought the Territorial Force into being, the TF was intended to be a home defence force for service during wartime and members could not be compelled to serve outside the country. However, on the outbreak of war on the 4th August 1914, many members volunteered for Imperial Service. Therefore, TF units were split in August and September 1914 into 1st Line (liable for overseas service) and 2nd Line (home service for those unable or unwilling to serve overseas) units. Later, 3rd Line units were formed to act as reserves, providing trained replacements for the 1st and 2nd Lines.

Edward Lawson is re-engaged for 4 years on the 14th May 1914 and attends the 1914 annual camp at Bridlington from the 26th July to the 4th August 1914. On the 5th August 1914 he is embodied for service. Edward is now promoted to Colour Sergeant on the 9th December 1914, and transferred to the 3rd Line Depot, into 'B' Company, where he is to train recruits for the other two cyclist battalions. Colour Sergeant Edward Lawson V.C., was an under bearer at the funeral of a Mr William Young, at Morpeth Church on Thursday, 1st October 1914. [William Young had a full Military funeral, he was in his younger days a member of the Scots Grey and rose to the rank of farrier-sergeant, he worked at the Pegswood Colliery for the last seven years, and was a blacksmith by trade, his hearse was preceded by a firing party of the Northern Cyclist Battalion]. Edward Lawson V.C. was one of six sergeants chosen to be under bearers. At Christmas 1914, Edward Lawson was presented with an engraved watch from the men of the Northern Cycle Battalion.

On the 10th October 1915 he is now appointed Acting Colour Sergeant. Edward is then posted to the 2/1st Northern Cyclist Battalion on the 4th May 1916 at Burton Constable, near Hull, and reverts back to a Lance Sergeant. On the 25th June 1916 Edward is now a Company Sergeant Major.

In 1911, Edward and his wife Ursula 'Cilla' Robina are now residing at 14 Matthew Street, Heaton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and he is employed as a Ship's Electrical Wireman at Armstrong Whitworth. Also residing at the address is their eldest child Thomas Edward Lawson, born 15th July 1908. He died on the 15th May 1932.

Hartlepool and Daily Mail Monday 16/05/1932.

Walker Man Killed
Knocked Down by Motor Car on Coast Road.

A motor fatality occurred on the Coast Road late last night, the victim being Thomas E. Lawson, aged about 25 years of 33 Parsons Avenue, Walker. The accident occurred near the Benton cross roads, and the unfortunate man was crossing the thoroughfare, was knocked down by a motor-car.

Death is believed to have been almost instantaneous. Lawson was speedily removed to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, but life was extinct. In addition to a fractured base of the skull, he had sustained a fractured pelvis and thigh. The car which knocked Lawson down was travelling towards Newcastle, and the accident happened just past Benton Crossroads. Deceased with another man was walking across the road from the south side.

Their 2nd daughter Audrey Isobel was born on the 25th December 1916, she went on to marry Haldane Thomas Jones a Royal Marine on the 24th April 1943 at Walker Parish Church. He was the son of Mr and Mrs D.J, Jones, of Llanelly. South Wales. He died and Audrey now widowed married Albert Smith, [who became a Head Chef on the Flying Scotsman], in July 1954, Arthur Lawson born 6th June 1912, [served in WW2 in the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, He enlisted on 20th July 1944, 14801882, transferred to the Lancashire Fusiliers 13th February 1945. He was in Lucknow 3rd August 1946 rank Warrant Sergeant embarked back to UK on the 20th February 1947, from Bombay. It mentions rank Company Quarter Master Sergeant, he was transferred to the Army Reserve 14th March 1947 rank Colour Sergeant], married a Mary Kathleen Ramsay 'Molly', in 1940, he died 1991, Walter Scott Lawson, born 28th May 1921, died 1950, married Elizabeth 'Lily' Butler, she emigrated to Australia in 1963, as a widow with her children on board the P and O Liner Stratheden, ship number 165614, with Mabel Joyce Lawson, born 1st March 1925, who married Leslie Wylie, he died in 1964, she died on the 5th November 2015, and they emigrated to Australia as a '£10 Pom', Ursula Irene 'Beth' Lawson, born 22nd December 1916, died May 1988. Glamorgan, who married Edward Vaughan, [born 1914, died 1998], in January 1938, they had three children, and Ursula Ellen Lawson, born December 1909, died October 1910.

On the 26th August 1916, still in the 2/1st Northern Cycle Battalion, Edward is reduced to a Sergeant. He is then transferred into 'A' Company, 2nd Platoon, 297th Depot Labour Company, {then based at South Camp Ripon}, by Army order 85807/A2 on the 15th June 1917. With a new Service number 227598. The first ten companies would be numbered 295 to 304 Depot Labour Companies. 297 was formed from the Northern Command Depot, service numbers from 123841 to 124440.
Depot Labour Companies. Army Council Instruction 611 stated that the eleven Depot Labour Companies were to be formed by the existing Depot Labour Companies in six of the the army commands at home. Their purpose was to provide drafts for Labour Companies serving overseas; to provide men locally for working parties as fatigues, as long as they could be quickly recalled if needed; to receive labour personnel returned from overseas and to deal with them according to their medical category: men of category 'A' would be transferred to a Reserve Battalion of the infantry, B1, B2, C1 and C2 would be available for drafting overseas again, and B3 and C3 (i.e. fit only for home service) would be dealt with according to regulations in force at the time. In 1917 the name of the units changed to Reserve Labour Company.

Source : The Long Long Trail

On the 8th January 1918, he is posted to the 9th [Labour] Battalion, which was a Cameron Highlanders designated unit, with the renumbered service numbers from 3601 to 4800. This eventually was re- numbered the 7th Labour Company. Edward now has the rank of Colour Sergeant. He was posted to the 300, 471 and 475 Companies. 23rd April, Edward signs a waiver to surrender all claims to be demobilised at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. On the 28th May 1918, the Officer in command of Infantry Record Office at York wrote a letter to the commanding officer of the 2/1st Northern Cyclist Battalion at Burton Constable near Hull, concerning the rank's that Edward Lawson VC had been appointed in his army career. There were some administrative oversights concerning the relevant paperwork required on his service record by the Army Infantry records at York.

He is then transferred to the West Yorkshire Regiment Depot on the 9th March 1919 with the service number 79017, he is finally discharged on the 2nd May 1920. Edward suffered from Rheumatism which was not attributed to War Service. And is rejected for a disability pension on the 13th May 1920. He is however entitled to his VC. pension.

King George V gave an Afternoon Party at Buckingham Palace on the 26th June 1920 for Recipients of the Victoria Cross. His Majesty was accompanied by The Queen and Members of the Royal Family.

The Victoria Cross Recipients assembled at Wellington Barracks, and marched to the Garden of the Palace via Birdcage Walk, Horse Guards Parade and The Mall preceded by the Band of the Welsh Guards. The King inspected the VC Recipients, who afterwards filed past His Majesty, and had the honour of being presented to The King and Queen. Edward was at this Garden party.

Edward and the family then moved to 33 Parsons Avenue, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the autumn of 1925. Edward by now was a clerk working at the Newcastle Public Assistance committee until he retired in 1938.

There was another Victoria Cross reunion dinner on Saturday 9th November 1929, which was held at the Royal Gallery, House of Lords. Edward Lawson VC., attended this event and was on table 1, seat number 43. This was the same table that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was seated, at No 1. On Edwards Lawson's left was a Sergeant John Daykins VC., seat number 42, and on his right was a Sergeant John Thomas VC., seat number 44. They were on the left hand side of the Prince of Wales in the hall.

In 1939 the family were still residing at the above address, Edward, Ursula, Arthur, Walter Scott and two others. Walter was an apprentice electrical engineer, Arthur was a Milling machinist. In 1943 his daughter Audrey married a Royal marine Haldene T. Jones, in 1943. She died in 2008.

Edward Lawson V.C. died on the 2nd July 1955. He is buried in Heaton and Byker Cemetery, where in 1999 a new headstone was erected on his grave. His Victoria Cross is held by the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen.

On the 15th July 1955, Mrs 'Cilla' Lawson aged 71, now a widow was telling the Newcastle Evening Chronicle that she may have to sell her late husbands VC Medal. She said "When Ned was alive he drew his VC pension as well as money from a superannuation fund, on top of that I had my pension. Now he is dead his VC pension stopped as does his superannuation money, and I am to get only a widow's pension of £2 a week."
She continued "I had a little money, but it all went on the funeral expenses. Now I have nothing". She says. The report goes on... The neat little woman, with greying hair has never been able to go to work due to ill health. And as a private in the Gordan Highlanders, Ned Lawson didn’t exactly make a fortune. But the VC widow is not alone, her grown up children have all pledged their help. But as one of them told me "She is a proud, independent old lady". He was a shy man. Ned Lawson man of courage was one of the shyest men in Tyneside. His married daughter Mrs Audrey Smith of Beauforts Close Kenton, said "Dad was of a retiring nature, and made no friends. But he loved children and often dipped into his pockets for a penny for them. The kids in the neighbourhood called him 'Grandpa Lawson'." Mrs Lawson concluded "I am having to consider selling the medal, but I don't want to part with it, for sentimental reasons. If the worst comes to worst. I would like his old regiment to have it, for that would be what Ned would have wanted".

Ursula died in 1960.

At Ursula's funeral she had requested the Queen Mother's piper Pipe Major John Spoore R.V.M. to play the pipes.

Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to Barry Lawson grandson, Linda Rhead, Chris Jackson.

Edward Lawson V.C. is remembered at Newcastle on NUT035 and NUT270.

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