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Joseph "Joe" Lawn (1890-1957)

West Hartlepool born joiner rose through the ranks of AIF awarded Military Medal

Great Britain and Germany went to war on 4 August 1914. Just 20 days later, Joseph Lawn enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). He had only arrived in Australia in June of that year.

Joseph, “Joe”, was born in West Hartlepool in February 1890, the son of a Yorkshire joiner from Helmsley, also called Joseph, and his wife, Elizabeth Ann from Ayton. There were just two children in the family, Joe, and his big sister, Ethel Mary.

When he left school, Joe followed his father into the joinery trade, and was apprenticed to a local carpenter, John Proud; he worked for him for the next six years.

On 24 May 1914, all changed when Joe sailed from London to Sydney on the “Wilcannia”, to find work in New South Wales (NSW) as a carpenter/joiner. In England, he had served with the Third Battery, Northumbria Brigade of the Territorial Field Army and no sooner had he settled in Sydney than he joined the 10th Australian Field Artillery.

With the declaration of war, Joe rushed to enlist in Sydney on 24 August; he joined the 1st Field Artillery Brigade as a Private/Gunner. He embarked for Egypt on 18 October 1914, and on 4 February, whilst still in the Middle East, was appointed to the rank of corporal.

With the First Division Ammunition Column, Joe served in the defence of the Suez Canal and in Gallipoli, before he was sent to the Western Front.

Over the next three years, he rose through the ranks to sergeant major before eventually he received his commission as an artillery officer in November 1917. With each promotion, he was transferred to a new unit and was serving as a sergeant with a trench mortar battery when he was awarded the Military Medal and was mentioned in Despatches. The citation for his Military Medal records his bravery that night:

“At Westhoek on the night of 18th/19th September 1917 [these] NCO’s showed great gallantry and devotion to duty whilst in charge of a party of Trench Mortar personnel and succeeded in emplacing near the outposts one 9.45 inch Trench Mortar and one 6 inch Newton Mortar which were a menace to our attack. The work was accomplished in spite of very heavy hostile barrage through the night. Thirty six rounds of 9.45 and 44 rounds of 6 inch Newton were fired by 8.20 am and the Strong Points successfully engaged.
These NCO’s showed a magnificent example and great determination throughout.”

Soon after this, Joe was sent for officer training, he became a second lieutenant on 24 November 1917, and a full lieutenant on 1 March 1918.

Joe survived the war and eventually returned to Australia on 1 December 1919. He resigned his commission on 15 December.

Joe stayed in Australia and married a young Australian girl, Catherine Jane Smith (“Kit”) from Cundletown, NSW. They had two children together, Nola and Frank, and eventually Joe was able to set up his own joinery company.

Joe died on 5 January 1957 in Gosford, NSW, and is buried at the Point Clare Cemetery there. Kit lived on until 22 July 1981.

Civil Parish: Hartlepool

Birth date: 1890

Death date: 05-Jan-1957

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 70 Dent Street, Stranton, West Hartlepool (ecclesiastical parish of St Paul’s 1891 census)
5 Rugby Terrace, West Hartlepool (1911 census)
Bert Street, Gosford, NSW, Australia (1930 electoral roll)
4 Short Street, Gosford, NSW (1949 electoral roll)

Employment: Joiner/carpenter, apprenticeship served with John Proud of West Hartlepool; owner of joinery works

Family: Parents: Joseph Lawn (1859-1936), Elizabeth Ann Lawn (1859-1908)
Sibling: Ethel Mary Lawn (b 1888)
Wife: Catherine “Kit” Jane Lawn (nee Smith 1896-1981)
Children: Nola Lawn, Frank Lawn

Military service:

Pre-war Service: Third Battery, Northumbria Brigade of the Territorial Field Army, 10th Australian Field Artillery
Service number 481
Australian Field Brigade
Promoted Corporal 04-Feb-1915
Temporary Sergeant 24-Dec-1915
‘A’ Battery, Sergeant Major 30-Aug-1917
Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant 24-Nov-1917
Lieutenant 01-Mar-1918
Resigned commission 15-Dec-1919
1st Field Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column
1st Division Artillery Trench Mortar Brigade
2nd Field Artillery Brigade
1st Division Ammunition Column

Medal(s): Military Medal
Oak Leaves for Mention in Despatches
1914/15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Gender: Male

Contributed by Kelloe Visitor, Trimdon Station

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