Contributed by: Julie Hogg, on 2008-11-07
|Year of Birth||1897|
|Year of Death||1916|
|Regiment||Royal Northumberland Fusiliers|
|Place of Wartime Residence||Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear|
My maternal Grandfather told me the story of my Great Uncle Lawson when I was about 16 following a school trip to the WWI battlefields at Ypres. Lawson was born in 1897 and was 10 years older than my Grandy and my Grandy had adored him. When the war broke out in 1914 Lawson and his best friend, Richard 'Dick' Whitfield, were only 16. They were desparate to go and fight so they forged their fathers' signatures and off they went. They both joined the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and were sent to France in the autumn of 1914. When Lawson came back on his first leave from the front, a portrait photo was taken which we now have hanging in our hall way. It shows a very young, handsome man, whom my mother resembles. However his expression is haunted as many of their faces were once they had experienced the horrors of trench warfare.
They forged their fathers' signatures and off they went
My Grandy was told the full story of Lawson's death on the Somme in 1916 by Lawson's best friend, Dick. After surviving the first Somme offensive in 1915, Lawson and Dick went over the top one morning in August 1916. Lawson was hit by a shell and sustaned what were to be fatal injuries. When he went off to war, my great grandfather had given him his pocket watch which held within it a picture of himself and his wife, Lawson's parents. Although Lawson must have been in unimaginable agony, he crawled back to the trench. He died in his Dick's arms after making him promise to return the watch to his parents.
Dick returned the watch to Lawson's parents and worked for my family's shopfitting business in Newcastle for 45 years. My Grandy only told me this story once as it was so painful for him and I promised him that one day I would lay flowers on Lawson's grave at Thiepval Cemetary in the Somme area. I intend to do that next summer. I, myself, cannot tell the story without weeping for the young man that never came home and whose family grieved for him all their lives. As far as I am aware, my great grandfather never got over it and died in the mid 1920s whilst still a relatively young man.
In the late 1980s my grandparent's house was burgled and the pocket watch that Lawson had ensured was returned was stolen. Somewhere, someone has the watch and they will never know just how important it was to Lawson in his dying moments and how important it was to his family, knowing what he must have gone through to return it to them.