Veteran Stories:
John Dawson

Army

  • "John Dawson" in the uniform of the Royal Highland Regiment in France, 1916. His real name was Joseph Jessop but for a reason unknown to his family, he enlisted under a different name. Collection courtesy of Cheryl Linch and Judy Burke.

    "John Dawson" in the uniform of the Royal Highland Regiment in France, 1916. His real name was Joseph Jessop but for a reason unknown to his family, he enlisted under a different name. Collection courtesy of Cheryl Linch and Judy Burke.
  • Crest of the Royal Highland Regiment, also known as the Black Watch.

    Crest of the Royal Highland Regiment, also known as the Black Watch.
  • Left to right: Pin in recognition of Mr. Dawson's service at the front; the miniature version of his Distinguished Conduct Medal; Pin in recognition of Mr. Dawson's service "for King and Empire."

    Left to right: Pin in recognition of Mr. Dawson's service at the front; the miniature version of his Distinguished Conduct Medal; Pin in recognition of Mr. Dawson's service "for King and Empire."
  • Letter from K. Clark Kennedy to his friend John Dawson. Mr. Kennedy sent his best wishes for Mr. Dawson's recovery from injuries he received at the front.

    Letter from K. Clark Kennedy to his friend John Dawson. Mr. Kennedy sent his best wishes for Mr. Dawson's recovery from injuries he received at the front.
  • Newspaper clipping announcing that John Dawson received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions as the front. Shortly after this, Mr. Dawson began using his real name. August, 1916.

    Newspaper clipping announcing that John Dawson received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions as the front. Shortly after this, Mr. Dawson began using his real name. August, 1916.
  • Discharge Certificate, reflecting the name change, shows that Mr. Jessop was release from military service on September 20, 1918, because his injuries made him unfit for duty.

    Discharge Certificate, reflecting the name change, shows that Mr. Jessop was release from military service on September 20, 1918, because his injuries made him unfit for duty.
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

Transcript

A man by the name of John Dawson enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on February the 19th, 1915. He joined the 42 Battalion as a Private and rose to Company Sergeant before leaving Montreal for overseas. His attestation papers indicated that he was a thirty year-old bricklayer, married and the father of three children. However, the most interesting thing on his attestation papers was that the name had been stroked out and changed to Joseph Richard Jessop.

Joseph Jessop is my maternal grandmother's uncle. Given the fact that my grandmother's family were all Jessops, we're confident that Jessop is his real name. I knew Uncle Joe for the first fifteen years of my life. I was very aware of the pride that he felt for his service in the Canadian military, in both the First and Second World Wars. Unfortunately, I wasn't aware of this John Dawson alias until very recently, and there are no remaining members of the family to answer this question for us.

And so it was, John Dawson sailed with his unit on June 10th, 1915, arriving at Shorncliffe, England on July the 1st. He was promoted to Warrant Officer, 2nd Class, shortly after changing his name back to Joseph Richard Jessop. He left England for Folkstone, France in October 1915. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal on July the 22nd, 1916, for "conspicuous gallantry under severe fire in the most strenuous conditions during an attack. He gave a fine example of coolness and courage, and his example greatly encouraged all ranks with him," wrote the London Gazette, August 8th, 1916.

On September 16th, 1916, Joseph Richard Jessop was shot in both cheeks while on patrol, as part of Captain Herbert Molson's platoon in Courcelette. He continued his tour of duty until a replacement arrived. He was treated in four separate hospitals over the period of several months, with the final outcome being the removal of his left eye, and a glass eye took its place.

On July the 29th, 1917, he was appointed Acting Regimental Sergeant Major with the 1st Quebec Regiment. He returned to Canada on April the 9th, 1918, with his Certificate of Discharge. It was issued under the name of Joseph Richard Jessop, and he was declared medically unfit.

Ex-Regimental Sergeant Major Joseph Richard Jessop, one of the four hundred and thirty-seven holders of the Distinguished Conduct Medal in Canada, decided to start a DCM fund to by war planes for the Empire in September 1940. He ran into resistance at first, as the authorities refused to provide him with the list of names and addresses that he required. With the cooperation of the Ottawa representative of the British Ministry of Pensions, Sergeant Major composed a letter, which the ministry circulated to the pensioners concerned. He asked each one to donate one dollar from each month's pay to the effort, in hopes of raising enough money to buy more than one warplane. He not only received commitment of funds from pensioners; he also received donations from the public. Sergeant Major Jessop was overjoyed to be informed that his initiative had been realized, and the purchase and construction of a warplane would be possible, as they had reached the goal of five thousand pounds.

Follow us