Header image  


Honouring Australian World War One Personnel







Name - Harrie James Dawson

Rank - Private upon enlistment, Warrant Officer WW1, retired with rank of Colonel in late 50s.

Official Number - 136

Enlistment Date - Jan 6th, 1915

Regiment - 21st Battalion


AWWOD descendant - Karen Dawson




Service Detail - Harrie James Dawson was born in Ballarat in 1891, and was a carpenter before the war. He joined the 21st Battalion in Victoria at the age of 23 as a Private in January 1915 and left for training in Egypt. During the journey from Egypt to Gallipoli, his ship the "Southland" was torpedoed. Everyone was taken off board by a hospital ship, but a volunteer party of eighteen, including my grandfather, remained on board and got up steam before a salvage crew arrived. This involved shovelling coal to keep the ship alive, in enemy territory and searing heat. He remained in Gallipoli from September and left the trenches during the mass evacuation in December 1915. His brother Walter served in the 9th Australian Light Horse and was killed on Gallipoli at Hill 60, only weeks before my grandfather arrived. He rose through the ranks very quickly due to his bravery and integrity, and by January 1916 had been promoted to CSM.

The 21st Battalion carried the honour of many "firsts". They were the first unit to Garrison Cairo, the first unit to be torpedoed, first unit to be reviewed by the Prince of Wales, the first Australian Infantry in the line in France, and the last Australian Infantry to come out of the line of France. During the fighting in France he was hit by shrapnel which blew out his teeth and suffered many other wounds as a result.

He returned to Melbourne after the first world war and remained in the Army. He married Edna in 1919 at the age of 28 and had two sons and a daughter. His eldest son Bill served in the second world war in the secret service and was taken aboard a Japanese submarine after his ship was torpedoed in the Indian ocean in 1943. During the second world war, my grandfather ran intern camps, and was on the board of investigation of the Cowra Breakout. He retired a Colonel in the mid fifties, and died in 1968 aged 77.



Members thoughts / recollections - I was six years old when he died, and I have very clear and very fond memories of him (Photo with Harrie). I believe he and his comrades are still up there watching watching our lives unfold, watching our achievements and disappointments, and watching us march in their honour each Anzac Day. I can only hope that he is aware of the immense pride I hold for him.