A search has been launched to trace the family of a First World War soldier to commemorate his death – nearly a century on.
Lance-Corporal Vincent Alexander Loecliffe Dawson served with the 1st/4th battalion Royal Scots during the conflict, but died from tuberculosis on December 11 1919 at the City Hospital in Aberdeen.
A grave registration report from the time shows the city soldier was buried in Old Machar (St Machar) Cathedral Churchyard, stating there was “room for inscription at the foot” of a family grave.
However, Vincent’s name was never added to the main family headstone. Neither is his name listed on the Aberdeen City Roll of Honour for the First World War fallen.
Now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is seeking next of kin to ensure his memory isn’t lost to the passage of time, with the intention of erecting a new headstone 100 years on.
In its latest appeal for relatives, the CWGC said: “The private memorial marking the grave of Lance Corporal Dawson no longer provided adequate commemoration. The Commission is in the process of producing a headstone to mark his grave.”
Unlike the large military cemeteries on the Continent that the CWGC is best known for, families of soldiers who died in the UK could choose to have them buried in local churchyards or remembered on private stones,
This gives the CWGC the unique challenge of looking after 170,000 war graves over nearly 13,000 different burial grounds across Britain alone.
The CWGC inspects every grave on a cyclical basis to ensure their upkeep.
A CWGC spokesman said: “If a grave is marked by a private memorial we are happy to accept that as the official point of commemoration provided it is adequately commemorating the war casualty.
“During a recent inspection visit it was found that was no longer the case with Lance Corporal Dawson’s granite headstone and so we sought permission from the cemetery authority to install a pedestal type grave marker.”
The pedestal marker – also known as Gallipoli markers after the place they were first used – will be carved from granite in France and installed in front of the existing grave.
The spokesman added: “We have launched the appeal for the next of kin to keep them involved and provide an opportunity for the family to be involved in the inscription process for the new marker.
“Obviously, for us, an illegible headstone means a brave man or woman is forgotten and that is not acceptable to us – hence we pay a significant interest in the eligibility of our grave markers.
“We would be thrilled if any family would come forward and be part of this process, but even if not, our new marker will ensure Lance Corporal Dawson is remembered for evermore.”
So far, no family member has come forward and the appeal will run until the end of this month.
Both Vincent’s parents – Emma Jane and Alexander Dawson – predeceased him and the headstone at Old Machar, which is carved from granite with an ivy motif, only lists Vincent’s grandparents and their three daughters – one being Vincent’s mother.
It reads: “Sacred to the memory of George Brown, coachman, who died 5th January 1884 aged 50 years. Also of his daughter Amelia who died 13th January aged 18 years and his wife Mary Reid who died 30th April 1896, aged 89 years. And their daughter Emma Jane, wife of Alexander Dawson, who died October 2 1915 aged 64 years. And their daughter Margaret Paton Murdoch who died January 17 1926, aged 96 years.”
Born in 1899, the 1911 census shows that a 22-year-old Vincent was living with his mother Emma and younger brother Ernest, 20, at 108 Union Grove.
Both brothers worked for an insurance company, Vincent as a cashier and Ernest as a clerk, while Emma, then aged 60, was head of the household.
A few years later, further research shows Vincent, service number 201229, was listed as wounded in a casualty report in the Evening Express on May 31 1917.
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It is unclear where he was fighting but several Scottish battalions saw action at the Battle of Arras in April and May 1917.
His service records show he received the Silver War Badge, an award issued to personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness.
Although he survived the war, Vincent’s death certificate reveals that he likely succumbed to his illness and he died at the age of just 30 from pulmonary tuberculosis at the City Hospital, which then specialised in epidemics.
He had been living at 22 Beechgrove Terrace with Ernest.
Anyone who believes they could be a relative of L/Cpl Dawson who can provide the CWGC with documentation is urged to contact its inquiries team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org