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Dadswell Family

Cousins at Gallipoli and the Western Front

Anzac Day (April 25) is the day Australians remember those who have fought for their country in times of war.

The expression 'Anzac' (shortened from Australia New Zealand Army Corps) became established after the ill-fated drive onto the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey in 1915, but nowadays Anzac Day is a tribute to those Australians who served in all wars.
Grave of Charles Dadswell
World War 1 took an extraordinary toll on the life of Australians, both for those who served and those at home.

From a population of less than 5 million, some 300,000 Australians enlisted. Of these, 60,000 died, so communities all around the country suddenly found many of their members had either died or been affected physically or mentally by the conflict. Most country towns today still have memorials to those they lost, a very sad reminder of the effects of war.

For the relatively small Dadswell family, it is quite extraordinary that during the 1914-18 conflict 13 cousins served overseas. Four were killed, three were wounded, two died not long after war's end, two took their own life, and others carried various burdens as they re-established their lives back in Australia following the end of the war.

Some of these cousins stayed in touch as best they could while on the battlefield during those disjointed war years - diaries and letters record some of their meetings, or their messages to one another.

So this Anzac Day, while acknowledging all family members who have served in times of war, we particularly remember those cousins who found themselves in the trenches during World War 1:

Driver Henry (Harry) William Bell,
labourer, son of Henry and Emma (Dadswell) Bell of Horsham, Victoria, joined the Army at age 32 in July 1915 and quickly saw action on the Western Front in France. He was evacuated to hospital at various times after being wounded and gassed but found time while on leave in England to marry Jessie May Simms. He returned to Australia and lived with his wife at Horsham until his death in 1935.

Private Robert Ernest Bell, labourer, brother of Harry, joined the Australian Army in Adelaide in October 1916 at the age of 24. He left Australia in the following December and eventually found himself in France. It appears not to have been a happy experience - Robert was court martialled twice and faced a number of charges, including being absent without leave, refusing to obey orders and assault. He returned to Australia in 1919 and married Jessie May Tims about 1938. Robert died in Melbourne on 3 August 1950, when aged 58.

Charles Dadswell Private Charles (Charlie) Dadswell,
a contractor, was the son of Charles and Susan (Broadwood) Dadswell of Horsham - he joined at age 23 in September 1916, sailed from Australia on 25 October 1916 and died in action in France on 22 April 1917.
The incident in which he died is recorded in Diary of a Sapper by Henry Dadswell (1894-1978):

"He [Charlie] had not received any mail for some time when a runner came up with some letters and Charlie got one. He waved it around and said, "Boys, a letter from home, this is my lucky day." He opened the letter and was about half way through it when a shell burst on the bank nearby and a piece hit him in the head. He didn't even finish reading his letter."

Sapper Henry Dadswell Sapper Henry William (Bluey the Sig) Dadswell, carpenter, son of Otto and Emma (Lewin) Dadswell of Warrak, Victoria - he joined at Ararat in September 1915 when aged 21 and spent 3 years abroad including time under heavy fighting on the Western Front in France and Belgium. As a signalling linesman, he was often the target of German snipers. The battle on the Polygon Wood front near Ypres, Belgium, in September 1917 saw him laying telephone lines across heavily-shelled areas. With his close comrade Sapper Arthur Weir, he was awarded a Military Medal for bravery under fire. Henry survived the war and became a horticulturalist, living to the age of 84.
Private Stan Dadswell
His brother, Private Stanley (Stan) Alfred Dadswell, farmer, was medically rejected when he first tried to enlist in 1915 but was accepted into the Army at age 20 in November 1916. During fighting in France on 24 April 1918, he suffered a gun shot wound to the head. He was medically evacuated to Australia but on occasions over many years he was incapacitated by his war injuries. He took his own life in 1957.

Private Charles (Charlie) Dunbar,
a labourer, son of Robert and Rita (Dadswell) Dunbar of Perth, Western Australia - in June 1915 he enlisted at age 25 and found himself fighting in France. A little over a year later, on 4 August 1916, he was killed on the battlefield near Villers-Brettoneux.

His brother, Private Thomas (Tom) William Dunbar, a horse driver, enlisted at age 24 in September 1916 (that is, after the death of his brother) and spent 2½ years overseas, including time fighting in France. He survived the war but died a few years after war's end, in 1923.

Driver Osborne Victor Lewin,
farmer, son of Francis Forbes and Elizabeth (Thomas) Lewin of Mt Cole, Victoria, joined in March 1915 at age 18, and spent much of his time on active service in France. At times he was evacuated to hospital due to illness or injuries. He returned to Australia in February 1919 and lived until 1974.

Pte Percy Ellerker Lewin, son of Percy Ellerker and Laura (Shalders) Lewin, enlisted in August 1917 when he was still a student, aged 18. He sailed from Australia in February 1918 and fought in France. He suffered wounds to the shoulder and back in August, at a time when the war would run only three more months. He was repatriated back to Australia.

His brother, Sapper Wilfred Percy Lewin, was 20 years old when he enlisted in July 1915. A former bank clerk, he became a signaller with the 5th Division Signal Company in France. He returned safely in July 1919, and for many years lived at Hattah, in north west Victoria.

Private Robert Jocelyn Lewin, son of Robert Ellerker and Georgina (Morris) Lewin, was born in England but was a 29-year-old divinity student at Ballarat when he enlisted April 1916. He fought as part of the 8th Battalion in France and Belgium. Following leave, he returned to his unit on 28 September 1917 but was killed during action that same day. His name is recorded at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Charles Lawrence Mitting Private Charles Lawrence Mitting
became a cousin by marriage after the war's end, when he and Ethel May Dadswell (sister of Henry and Stan Dadswell) married. Charles, a horticulturalist of Mildura, Victoria, enlisted when he was 21 and was fighting in France in April 1917 when he was captured by German troops. He remained a prisoner of war in Germany until his repatriation to and hospitalisation in England in December 1918, eventually returning to Australia in mid-1919. He returned to his Mildura property but died suddenly in 1929.

Private Sid Norwood Private Sidney Oxborough Norwood,
labourer, son of Sidney and Helena (Dadswell) Norwood, joined in March 1915 at age 23 and found himself on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Lone Pine assault began on August 6; a day later he was reported missing, believed killed. His body was never recovered.

The anguish of those who were at home while war raged is sadly illustrated in the records for Private Norwood.

He landed at Gallipoli to find himself involved fighting in horrific conditions. Almost immediately, he was listed as missing in action. But for his family back home, there was no finality - his body was never found, his belongings never came home and at least initially, they did not give up hope that - somehow - he may have survived.

The family even tried to contact Turkish authorities to determine if he had been captured.

Eventually the Army declared that he had been killed in fighting, all on the basis that one soldier told another soldier who told an inquiry that Sid's body had been seen.

For the family's story, see Sidney Oxborough Norwood.

This report was first published on 25 April 2007, and updated on 8 October 2008.

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