16 May 2009

An Ordinary Signalman

John Raymond Dawson joined the Royal Navy in Leeds, his home town, in December 1940 aged 19, with his best friend Norman Brooks. He served until early 1946, which was when he wrote up his “diary” setting out his experiences during the War.

His son promised him in 1985 that one day he would write this up for publication. John agreed but only if this was after his death. Sadly this came too soon in the following year when he was aged just 64. In 1999, letters John had written during the War to his elder sister Eileen were found in her attic when she was moving. This provided more valuable material for the book.

Being a signalman in the Royal Navy led John to see parts of the world he would not otherwise have seen. He saw danger even in his training at Devonport from severe German bombing in the week of his arrival. He visited the USA and Canada before a relatively quiet time based in Scotland on HMS Forth, a submarine depot ship. John had to swim for his life in January 1944 when after being involved at Minturno and Anzio, HMS Spartan was sunk. He and most survivors then joined one of the light cruiser HMS Aurora, on which he saw action at the invasion of the South of France at Toulon, and at the liberation of Greek islands and Greece itself.

The diary and letters provide an insight into the adventures of a young man from Leeds,
progressing from Ordinary Signalman to Yeoman of Signals, seeing action from the bridge in his signalman’s role. They also provide an insight into the effects on him being far from home and what was a very close family, with his strong beliefs and views often expressed.

Available from:
Melrose Books