Herbrand Vavasour Dawson

Herbrand Dawson
Herbrand Dawson
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HERBRAND Vavasour Dawson, who was lucky to survive Dunkirk after a fortunate rescue helped him reach the last hospital ship to sail from the battered harbour, has died aged 93.

HERBRAND Vavasour Dawson, who was lucky to survive Dunkirk after a fortunate rescue helped him reach the last hospital ship to sail from the battered harbour, has died aged 93.

Lieutenant Colonel Dawson, as he was to become, had been fighting in a kilt as the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders were the last Highland regiment to wear the kilt in battle. He was one of the regiment’s last pre-World War Two Regular officers.

He retired from the Army in 1968 and on the death of his uncle, Captain William Dawson, inherited the ancient Vavasour family seat of Weston, near Otley, where he became very active in the community.

He was very proud of his family’s lineage, being descended from Mauger Le Vavasour of Hazlewood and Sir William de Stopham, Lord of Weston in the 14th century. He was 31st Lord of the Manor.

When he moved to Weston Hall, he managed an estate of more than 2,000 acres, farming dairy cows and sheep. In addition there was an 800-acre grouse moor.

He served as president of Otley Show and was a governor of Askwith Primary School. For 20 years he was a member of North Yorkshire Council and its chairman between 1989 and 1990. He was chairman of the public protection committee from 1981 to 1993, served on the agriculture committee and was made an honorary Alderman in 1994.

He had been chairman of the National Parks Committee Association of County Councils, president of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society in 1994, and a former president of Wharfedale Agricultural Society.

He was also a Deputy Lieutenant for North Yorkshire.

Having been unable to rejoin the 1st Battalion of his regiment after leave in 1940, he was appointed adjutant to a composite battalion formed from ‘details’ of the 2nd Division and given the order to fight to the last man and the last bullet.

“I felt I had had it,” he used to say.

He was wounded in the knee during the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force and limped off to a French farm yard where the family gave him some food.

Fortunately, a gunner officer passing on a motorcycle picked him up and he rode pillion to the beaches - the two soldiers were to meet many years later - where he reached the last hospital ship to leave. Even there he was not safe, as he lay on the deck as it came under German air attacks.

Col Dawson was born in London and had a distinguished military lineage. His father Jack Vavasour Dawson had been a major in the 13th Hussars and lost a leg in Mesopotamia - now Iraq - in 1917. His mother Charlotte Gerda was a Romilly, who had a family connection to the Russells of Woburn Abbey hence his first name. Herbrand Arthur Russell was the 11th Duke of Bedford.

He was educated at Winchester and Sandhurst, where as an infantry officer he earned a reputation as a fine horseman and the nickname, Peke. His great uncle Lt Col Frederick Romilly had served in the 79th in 1834 and also a cousin, Major General John Campbell of Lochend, who joined the Camerons in 1892, who gave him a gift of money to join.

When commissioned in 1938 Col Dawson pulled in the 1st Cameron tug-o war team at Olympia in 1938 and 1939.

After escaping Dunkirk in 1940, he served with the 1st Liverpool Scottish until 1943 and then posted to the 5th Camerons in North Africa.

He fought in Sicily, including the battle of Sferro Hills. Later he fought with the 5th Camerons in North West Europe again during the fighting at the Reichswald Forest, the crossing of the Rhine and the advance into Germany.

After the war, he held staff appointments in Germany and later attended the Staff College. In 1954, he captained the 1st Camerons ski team which won the Army Championships.

When he was appointed to HQ Scottish Command he also was assistant producer of the Edinburgh Tattoo. In 1960 he returned to Inverness to command the 4 th/5th Bn, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders TA. The Battalion had its HQ at Cameron Barracks and nine drill halls spread across Inverness-shire, the Western Isles and Nairn.

He enjoyed skiing and shooting.

In 1942 he married Grizelda, daughter of Major G M Richmond, Black Watch, who died in 2001.

He is survived by his children, Christopher and Catherine and five grandchildren.