Lawn Arthur William Lamason Captain 122768

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Personnel Entry

Captain A W L LAWN
Captain A W L LAWN

Name Lawn Arthur William Lamason
Army number 122768
Rank Captain
Date of birth 1/1/1904 at Stratford, Taranaki.
Age 38
Unit New Zealand Territorial Force - Wellington Regiment, served in 1st Battalion as Company Sergeant Major (described as Student School Teacher in civil life). Commissioned as 2/Lt on first appointment to 1st Battalion, Wellington Regiment 14/8/1923 (Gazetted 6/9/1923). Transferred to Taranaki Regiment 29/4/1925 - appointed 2/Lt in 1st Battalion, retaining his seniority. Leave of absence granted with effect from 15/6/1937 on his leaving for the UK. Transferred to the Reserve of Officers Class 1 (b) with effect from 24/5/1937. Request for records made to New Zealand on 13/9/1939 on his seeking to join Durham Light Infantry. Approval to transfer granted 14/9/1939.

Joined The Durham Light Infantry - granted an Emergency Commission as a 2/Lt 5/3/1940. Posted 10th Battalion DLI. Served BEF. Evacuated via Dunkirk. Posted 11th Battalion DLI 30/6/1940. Served Iceland. Welfare duties at Iceland Force HQ. Requested transfer back to New Zealand Forces. Army HQ agreed to accept his transfer for either a mobilised territorial unit or for temporary staff work. Transferred to the Pioneer Corps 31/1/1942. Relinquished Commission on being appointed to a Commission in the New Zealand Forces 31/5/1942. Posted to the New Zealand Infantry in the rank of Captain - Number 865. Posted Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. DIED at sea 11/7/1942 en route to join the Expeditionary Force in New Zealand.
Company/Battery 10th Bn - B Company, 11th Bn - B Company.
Platoon or other sub-unit
Task or role 1st Reinforcements (Force Duties) Iceland.
Joined Brigade 5/3/1940 or shortly thereafter.
Promotions Passed Examination for Lt 25/9/1926. Promoted Lt 21/4/1927. Partially passed Examination for Captain 13/11/1929. Passed remainder of Examination and promoted Captain 14/5/1930 (Gazetted 7/8/1930). Passed Part C (Practical) Examination 16/5/1934. A/Captain 1/4/1940, W/S Lt and T/Captain 1/7/1940.
Wounded Not so far as is known.
Prisoner of War Not so far as is known.
Died/Killed in action 11/7/1942
Home address Son of Charles Henry and Barbara Mary Lawn (nee Lamason), of Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand. Educated at schools in New Plymouth, Wanganui and Stratford. Gained a junior national scholarship in 1918 and attended University. Passed Teachers' Examinations in 1922 and worked as a Primary School Teacher in New Plymouth, Wanganui and Hawera. Coached swimming. Commemorated on the Wellington Provincial Memorial, Karori Cemetery, Wellington, New Zealand.
Source table 10DLI

As he had relinquished his DLI Commission before leaving for New Zealand he, unfortunately, is not included in the DLI Roll of Honour in Durham Cathedral.

Memorial Tablet
List of names

The following message was left on the Wartime Memories Project Website :-

Capt. Arthur William Lamason "Paddy" Lawn . British Army 10th Battalion Durham Light Infantry from Hawera, NZ.)

(d.11th Jul 1942 )

Paddy Lawn was a well-loved teacher and swimming coach at Hawera NZ. He went to London in 1937 to help with unemployed youth auspices through the YMCA.

When war started he went to NZ House to join up and was told to join the local Durham Light Infantry. Having been a Territorial in New Zealand, he was made a Captain right away and then found himself right through France and Dunkirk. The Battalion reformed at Ilford (sic) and was sent to Iceland as part of the Garrison.

Later Paddy was transferring to the NZEF from the BEF (sic) when the ship was torpedoed by U boat. He was last seen holding up another soldier in shark-infested waters near Iceland.

Tom Lawn.

Attempts to contact Tom Lawn by e-mail, using the address left on the Website, were unsuccessful.

However, subsequent e-mail correspondence with Mark Pirie has been most helpful and much information about Captain Lawn has been exchanged.

The New Zealand Military Archives, following my request and an explanation of how the material would be used on this Memorial Website, produced a complete copy of Captain Lawn's Service Record, including information on his earlier career in the New Zealand Forces, and documents which went some way to explaining why he was travelling to Wellington, NZ, at the time of his death. Thanks are due to David Gibson, Archives Enquiry Officer at the New Zealand Defence Forces.

Particular thanks are due to Alison Taylor of Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand, who provided research guidance and gave advice on obtaining more information about Captain LAWN by contacting the NZDF Archives.

In addition to the details included above, Captain Lawn's Service record contains the following information, which has been enhanced by the unstinting help of the Rootsweb Mariners Forum, who supplied the naval details, for which, again, very sincere thanks are due:-

Having been accepted for transfer back to the New Zealand Armed Forces, it would appear that Captain Lawn had been intended for a posting to a mobilised Territorial Unit - which were increasing in scale at the time - and was a passenger on board SS Port Hunter, which was part of Convoy OS33 which left Liverpool on 30/6/1942 and was bound for Wellington, New Zealand, via Durban, South Africa.

As the SS Port Hunter was low on fuel the Captain was ordered to leave the Convoy and make best speed to Durban to refuel. Shortly afterwards, the ship was sighted by the German U-Boat U 582 and torpedoed some 350 miles West of Madeira. The ship carried 5 passengers - including Captain Lawn and Mrs Duff, wife of Colonel (later Brigadier) C.J. Duff, Commander Royal Artillery of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, together with 89 crew. The ship's cargo included ammunition and, in the resulting explosion following the impact of the torpedo, she was so severely damaged that she sank in two minutes. The only survivors were three crew members who had been sleeping on deck and were blown into the water by the blast. One of the items on board was a motor vessel, being carried as deck cargo, and the three clung to the wreckage of this boat and were picked up the following morning by one of the convoy escorts.

Captain Lawn's "History Sheet" shows that he was posted "Missing at sea due to enemy action" on 28/7/1942 and that record was subsequently updated to show, on 24/3/1943, that he was presumed to have drowned on 11/7/1942. Arrangements were made on 27/7/1942 for a local Solicitor in Stratford to deliver the sad news, and presumably the official telegram, to Captain Lawn's mother, who was then his next of kin. Similarly Army HQ arranged for the news of the presumed death of his wife to be delivered to Col Duff.

The updating of the record to show Captain Lawn's presumed death on 11/7/1942 arose from the receipt of a formal Certified Extract Relating to the Death of a Passenger prepared by the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen and forwarded by the New Zealand Government Office in London to Army HQ in Wellington. There clearly was a delay in this document reaching New Zealand - perhaps not surprisingly given the circumstances - and Captain Lawn was not included in the Obituary Section of New Zealand Army Orders until 2/8/1943. His mother was informed officially of the presumption of his death on 24/3/1943 at which time she was also sent the Royal Letter of condolence.

His brothers and sisters applied for the usual death gratuity in August 1947 and it is clear that, by then, his mother was deceased, and replaced as formal next-of-kin by his oldest brother.