Lieutenant Colonel H. J. Dawson, D.S.O.
59th (Eastern Ontario) & 46th (South Saskatchewan) Battalions
He was a Soldier! During its fighting history, he was in command of the 46th Bn., and no battalion ever went into action more confident that everything that could be foreseen had been provided for. Consequently, he was respected, trusted and obeyed and the proud record of the fighting battalion which he commanded stands as evidence of the sterling qualities of our CO.
It was not given to many who served under Col. Dawson to know the kindly, shy heart of the man, who concealed his sympathy under the mask of a stern discipline.
(46th Battalion CEF – Year Book, 1926, 3)
Herbert John Dawson was an associate professor at the Royal Military College with fourteen-years of service in the 14th (The Princess of Wales’ Own Rifles) Regiment. He was born in Birkenhead, England on 21 November 1876. In April 1915, Dawson began to organize the 59th Battalion from Eastern Ontario and Hull, Quebec.
After the 59th was broken up in England in July 1916, Dawson went to France to succeed Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Snell as commander of the 46th Battalion. Just as his battalion was preparing to deploy to France, Snell had suffered nearly fatal injuries from a grenade explosion in a training accident.
A strict disciplinarian, Dawson was known for his cold personality and humourless disposition. At RMC, students referred to the professor as “Dismal Dawson.” Although many of the 46th officers were disappointed that an outsider was appointed to command, they soon came to respect Dawson as an effective leader.
As part of the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Division, the 46th saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war. With a ninety percent casualty rate of killed and wounded, the unit earned the moniker the “Suicide Battalion.” In 1917, Dawson received the Distinguished Service Order and Bar for gallantry during a daring reconnaissance mission while under fire.
After demobilization, Dawson returned to RMC where he later served as director of studies from 1922 until his death in 1926.