Major Bruce Dawson in 1944

Major Dawson's grave

Major Charles Neville Bruce Dawson


Unit : Headquarters, 4th Parachute Brigade

Army No. : 69165

Awards : Military Cross, Mentioned in Despatches


Bruce Dawson, born in August 1916, was the son of Edward Elliot Neville Dawson and Muriel Simpson Dawson. He married Sheila Mosley Dawson (née Mayne), of Guildford, Surrey, with whom he had two children.


Dawson trained at RMA Sandhurst, and was commissioned to the Royal Berkshire Regiment a few days short of his 20th birthday in August 1936. By September 1939, he had become a Lieutenant, and rose through the ranks as the war progressed. He was awarded the Military Cross whilst serving with the 1st Battalion The Royal Berkshire Regiment in France, 1940.


In late 1943 he volunteered for Airborne Forces and by September 1944, he had joined the 4th Parachute Brigade as the Brigade Major and took part in the Battle of Arnhem, during Operation Market Garden.


As part of the 4th Parachute Brigade Advance Party he jumped onto D.Z. "X" on Sunday the 17th September 1944 and moved up to D.Z. "Y" with the Headquarters of the 7th Battalion The King's Own Scottish Borderers. On Monday the 18th September he was involved in the attempts to clear the German forces from D.Z. "Y" prior to the Brigade's jump in. He was only partially successful in this task when the planes arrived over the drop zone. Not long after Brigadier Hackett arrived at Bde R.V. Major Dawson was there to inform him of the change in the overall plan, namely that Brigadier Hicks now commanded the Division and that he had decided to remove the 11th Battalion from Hackett's command to reinforce the 1st Parachute Brigade in Arnhem. Hackett was not amused.


The 4th Brigade moved off late on the 18th September and Brigade HQ stopped overnight in the area of Bunderkamp. The attack on Tuesday the 19th September by the 156 and 10th Parachute Battalion's was unsuccesful and the whole Brigade was forced to retire across the railway line between Wolfheze and Oosterbeek.


By the 20th September the remnants of the 4th Parachute Brigade were attempting to reach the main 1st Airborne Divisional position through the woods to the South East of Wolfheze. During the height of the very confused fighting in the woods Major Dawson rallied a strong force of men from different units and led a spirited attack, which surprised and stopped the enemy. He was wounded in the right arm during this action and had a sling applied by a medic. Brigadier Hackett noted in his diary that he "continued to act with great gallantry". One of the last photos of him alive shows him smoking a cigarette, quite nonchantly, whilst awaiting treatment for his wound.


Major Dawson was killed during this attack in the wooded area on the outskirts of Arnhem on 20th September 1944, aged 27 years old. Major-General Urquhart, in his book, Arnhem, wrote  "Hackett's Brigade Major, Bruce Dawson, shot a German with a rifle and soon afterwards Hackett followed suit. Then Dawson was shot through the head and killed."


He is now buried in Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Arnhem, 6.C.11. He was awarded a posthumous Mention in Despatches in September 1945 for his actions at Arnhem.


Thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.


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