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Harold Daws (1888-1916)

Second Lieutenant, 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, killed accidentally

Harold Daws was born in 1888 in Forest Hill, Kent and spent his early childhood there. By the age of 13 he was attending school in Ludgate, City of London, and was a chorister, along with his brother Arthur, at St Paul’s Cathedral. He would have been the Cathedral Choir School, which only had 38 pupils.

His father, John Edward Daws, was living in Winton, Bournemouth by 1914 and at the time of his son’s death. Harold had one sister, Nellie, who lived in Wimbledon. He and Arthur both used her address during times of leave. Their mother, Ada Rebecca, had died in 1890.
Harold worked as a bank clerk and before the war he had been based in Brazil. On 30 November 1914, Harold arrived in Liverpool on the SS Amazon, having joined the ship in Santos. He enlisted quite quickly in the Artists Rifles, more formally known as the 28th Battalion, The London Regiment, in December 1914, along with his brother.

On 11 August 1915 Harold embarked from Southampton for France as part of the Expeditionary Force and joined his unit five days later.
By spring of 1916 Harold had been commissioned as second lieutenant with 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (DLI). He was wounded on two separate occasions in 1916. His first wounds were slight and after treatment Harold was able to re-join his regiment less than three weeks later. On 27 August, Harold sustained a gunshot wound to the back at Delville Wood. This was described by a medical board as a small fragment of shell lodged in the left side of his back, and an additional fragment which passed through the right foot. These injuries required more treatment, and Harold spent seven weeks in Southampton in September and October 1916. Harold was assessed and declared fit for service on 23 October 1916, and he was able to re-join his battalion.

However, Harold was killed on 26 December 1916 and the circumstances of his death were reported inaccurately at first. Harold’s father received a telegram on 29 December stating that he had been killed in action, but two days later the verdict was changed to accidental death. Fellow officer, Captain AJ Hopkinson, informed his superiors that he believed he had mistakenly shot Harold while on a night patrol.
A Court of Enquiry was held in the field, 28-30 December 1916, by order of the then commanding officer Major Rowland Tudor St John. The president of the court was Captain Charles Edward Stewart, and the members were Captain Frank Berisford and Lieutenant A Todd, all 10 DLI. The first of the seven witnesses was Captain AJ Hopkinson himself. The enquiry established that Second Lieutenant Daws had indeed been killed when the patrol had become lost and confused in the darkness, and mistakenly believed they had entered a German trench. When Harold appeared he was assumed to be a German soldier and shot by Captain Hopkinson.

The verdict of the enquiry was that no one could be blamed, and therefore the death was recorded as accidental. No disciplinary action was taken against Hopkinson. The records of this inquiry are kept with Harold Daws’ service record.

Harold’s sister, Nellie, inherited his effects, including the sum of £412.5s.9d. Harold had named her in his will as his heir and his father wrote to the War Office to support this arrangement which was confirmed in February 1917. His brother, Arthur, was killed in action on 30 October 1917, still serving with 28th Battalion, The London Regiment.

Harold’s war grave can be found at Faubourg d’Amiens Arras, France. The inscription reads:
“Second Lieutenant H Daws DLI 26 December 1916 aged 29. His Light Shall Linger Round Us Yet. Bright, Radiant, Blest”.

This information was derived from the officers’ service records, held at The National Archives, Kew, London: WO 339/50614
Also used: Ancestry

With thanks to The Guild of the Companions of St Pail (the Association of former choristers) for additional information about the school.

Birth date: 1888

Death date: 26 December 1916

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 142 Hartsfield Road, Wimbledon SW – home of his sister

Education: The 1901 census shows Harold as a pupil, aged 13, in the Parish of St. Martins Ludgate, City of London

Employment: Bank Clerk, Brazil

Family: Father: John Edward Daws,
Mother: Deceased (1890)
Sister: Nellie Daws

Military service:

Private 3032, Artists Regiment, 28th Battalion, London Regiment
Second Lieutenant, 10th battalion, Durham Light Infantry (DLI)

Medal(s): Victory Medal, 1915 Star, British Medal

Memorial(s): Military cemetery, Faubourg d’Amiens Arras, France.
“Second Lieutenant H.Daws D.L.I. 26 December 1916 aged 29. His Light Shall Linger Round Us Yet. Bright, Radiant, Blest”

Gender: Male

Contributed by Durham at War volunteer | Mel Brown