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Walter Frank Dawn

Rank: Private

Lifetime: 1881-1915

Reference: 1989

Private Walter Frank Dawn (1989) of the 1st/23rd Battalion of The London Regiment died on 25 May 1915 near Festubert. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.

His Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry (“CWGC”) states that he was the son of Richard and Florence Dawn of Richmond (and he is also commemorated on the Richmond War Memorial). His connection to Hampton Wick is explained by the CWGC entry. His wife, Florence Mabel Dawn, was a native of Hampton Wick. His entry on the Richmond War Memorial website states that he was born in Richmond and enlisted in Clapham. It also gives his Battalion as 47th London Division. His entry in U.K. Soldiers who died in the Great War confirms that he enlisted at Clapham Junction and gives his residence as Hampton Wick.

He had only entered the French theatre of war on 14 March 1915 according to a note on his Medal Roll at the National Archives. Private Dawn only lasted nine weeks after landing in France. His arrival coincided with the first chlorine gas attack used at the Second Battle of Ypres by the Germans on 22nd March 1915 with devastating effect. It is possible, therefore, that Private Dawn was an early casualty of chemical warfare.

According to the parish records of St Mary Magdalene, Richmond, Private Dawn was born on 4 March 1885 and subsequently baptised at the church on 7 June 1885. His baptismal name is actually recorded as Frank Walter Thomas Dawn so presumably at a later date the first two names became reversed. His parents are named as Richard and Elizabeth Dawn and their place of residence is given as No 3 St (illegible) Cottages, Kesforth Rd, Richmond. His father was employed as a plasterer. Six years later the family were recorded in the Census as living with eight children at 3 St Johns Cottages, Viaduct Rd, Richmond. By 1901 the family had moved to 27 Evelyn Rd, Richmond and had two more children.

Shortly afterwards, sometime between July and September 1903, at the age of about eighteen, Walter married Florence Mabel an older lady aged about twenty four originating from Bermuda. The marriage was registered in Richmond. Shortly afterwards, in the second quarter of 1904 (sometime between April and June) the couple had a son, Sidney Frank Dawn, whose birth was registered in Richmond. A daughter, Florence Jane Ada Dawn, who was also born in Richmond, followed in about 1907.Thereafter, the marriage appears to have failed: by 1911 Walter, now aged 26, had returned to the family home. He was living with his mother at 4 Jocelyn Rd, Richmond and working as a labourer at the sewerage works. Meanwhile, his wife, Florence Mabel Dawn, now aged 32, was living at 121 Livingston Rd, Battersea with their three children. The youngest, Reginald Cyril Dawn (2) is described on the Census entry as having been born in Battersea which suggests that the breakup had occurred by 1909. Although married, Florence states she is “head of the household” on the Census which suggests they were, indeed, separated.Under the “occupation” column she states she has none but “has an allowance from husband” who is stated to be “away”. All four of them were living in a one room household.

Private Dawn is also commemorated not only on the War Memorial in Richmond, where he grew up; but also according to the Imperial War Museum, in the Roll of Honour at St Mary Magdalene Church Richmond, where he was baptised (IWM WMR-12510) and also in St Mary’s Church, Battersea where his estranged wife was living (IWM 18125-430852).

The first phase of this Project is to gather information about the men commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial who fought in the Great War, also known as World War I, WWI or the First World War.

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