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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 22887
9th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Who died on Tuesday, 24th July 1917
Age 22
,br> Buried Plot XI. Row K. Grave 15
Baghdad (North) Gate War Cemetery, Iraq

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Iraq Roll of Honour

Iraq Roll of Honour1

Albert Dawn was born in 18942, the adopted son of Joseph & Sarah Elizabeth (nee Haddon) Oldham. His natural parents, Edward & Mary Hannah (or Mary Ann - née Alvey) Dawn had died when Albert was an infant, leaving their large family in some difficulty3. His mother's brother, William Alvey and his wife, who were otherwise childless, adopted Albert and brought him up in their home in Beeston. In 1899, William Alvey died and his wife married Joseph Oldham4 and continued with Albert's adoption arrangements. In due course, Albert became the well-loved brother of Joseph & Sarah's own two children, Joseph Harry and Edna May5.

In 1911, the family were living at Cross Street, Beeston. Joseph Oldham was employed as a sanitary labourer by the local Council and Albert, then 16, had found work as a domestic gardener6.

Although his Army Service Record has not survived, it appears likely that Albert enlisted in Coventry with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and joined 9th Battalion, sometime in the second half of 19167.

The battalion had been formed in August 1914, immediately following the outbreak of war and became part of 39th Brigade, 13th (Western) Division. It had landed at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli in August 1914 and was engaged in a series of actions in which it suffered heavy losses - from disease and terrible weather as well as combat - until it was evacuated in January 1916. After a brief stay in Egypt, it embarked for Mesopotamia in February 1916. The Mesopotamian Campaign, was carried out in the Middle East between the Allies, mostly British and Indian troops, and the Central Powers, with mostly Ottoman Empire troops. For the Allies, it was vital to maintain the oil supplies that the region supplied. The Siege of Kut in December 1915 continuing into the beginning of 1916, was a disaster for the Allies when it proved impossible to supply the British troops who were trapped in Kut. Finally, on 29th April 1916, over 13,000 men were forced to surrender8.

Entry into Baghdad Between May and December of 1916, 13th Division, of which the battalion was part, refitted and re-equipped in preparation for a planned drive northward to capture Baghdad, part of a determined retaliation. It is likely that, after his initial training, Albert joined his battalion in the region about this time.

In December 1916 the British advanced on both sides of the Tigris river, flushing out Ottoman forces along the way. On the approach to Kut, the Ottoman troops were outmaneuvered, British troops occupied Kut and continued their advance up the Tigris river. By early March, the British were at the outskirts of Baghdad and, after the Ottoman troops retreated in disarray on the 11th, the British entered Baghdad in triumph, led by General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude, their commanding officer.(left)9.

The conditions faced by the troops in this region were atrocious. The poor hygiene environment led to cholera and other water-borne diseases, there was heat exhaustion in the extreme heat of the summer and problems in the extreme cold in winter too. The British troops had over 800,000 hospitalsations for sickness - almost ten times the number of their battle casualties.

In the months that followed, fighting continued, with the objective of consolidating British control in the area. In July 1917, Albert became ill with a fever. The heat was extreme - over 50C (123F) in Baghdad on the 20th10 - and, on July 24th, he died. He was buried in Baghdad (North) Gate War Cemetery. Not surprisingly, his family - both real and adopted - were devastated. These announcements, from the Nottingham Evening Post of 9th and 11 August 1917, from his adopted and real families respectively, reflect those feelings11. In Memorial messages continued to be placed in newspapers in following years.

Death announcement 2  Death announcement 1

The cemetery is 800 metres beyond the North Gate of the city of Baghdad on the south-eastern side of the road to Baguba.Baghdad. It is now located in a very sensitive area i n the Waziriah Area of the Al-Russafa district of Baghdad. The main entrance to the cemetery is located opposite the College of Arts and the Institute of Administration in Baghdad University and adjacent to the Iraqi Cigarette Factory in Waziriah Area and the Press of Ministry of Defence. Whilst the current climate of political instability persists it is not possible for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to manage or maintain its cemeteries and memorials located within Iraq. Alternative arrangements for commemoration have therefore been implemented and a two volume Roll of Honour listing all casualties buried and commemorated in Iraq has been produced. These volumes are on display at the Commission's Head Office in Maidenhead and are available for the public to view.

The North Gate Cemetery was begun in 1917 and enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of 2,975 graves from other cemeteries at Baghdad and in Northern Iraq and from the battlefields, and later from the cemeteries in Anatolia where Commonwealth and British Prisoners of War were buried by the Turks. At present 4,160 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War are commemorated by name in the cemetery, many of them on special memorials. The tomb of Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude, who died of Cholera in Baghdad in November 1917, is in the middle of the Cemetery, and the memorial to the 13th Division which he commanded12.

Albert was posthumously awarded the Victory and British Medals13. His Army financial effects totaling 4 7s 3d were paid to his step-mother, as sole legate, on 11 April 1918 and 12 October 1918. She received his War Gratuity of 3 on 28 October 191914.

1The photograph of Iraq Roll of Honour is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Nottingham Registration District in Q3/1894 (Ref 7b 363) 3Edward Dawn had married Mary Hannah (or Ann) Alvey in Nottingham in Q4/1870 (Ref 7b 427). In 1881, he was working as a pork butcher (1881 Census : Piece 3361 Folio 95) although, by 1891, he was working as a heavy labourer (1891 Census : Piece 2701 Folio 62). Mary Hannah died in Nottingham Registration District in Q4/1896 (Ref 7b 270), aged 45, having had at least ten children. It is not clear when Edward died but it does appear that his wife's death left the younger children in need of support.
4William Alvey's death was recorded in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q2/1899, aged 34 (Ref 7b 177). His widow married Joseph Oldham on 17 November 1900 at Beeston Parish Church.
5Joseph Harry Oldham was born on 16 July 1904 and Edna May Oldham in Q1/1908. Another sibling died in infancy.
61911 Census : Piece 20430 RD429 SD3 ED1 Sched 301.
7The amount of his Service Gratuity indicates that he had served for less than 12 months at the time of his death.
8This outline of the Mesopotamia campaign and the involvement by 13th Division and 9th Battalion specifically is from Wikipaedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/13th_(Western)_Division and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Kut)and the Forces War Records website (www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/316/royal-warwickshire-regiment).
9Image from : Mrs. Stuart Menzies (1920). Sir Stanley Maude and Other Memories. London: Herbert Jenkins. p. 48., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11766648
10Quoted from a post by Sam Collins on the Osprey Publishing blog (ospreypublishing.com/blog/the-baghdad-north-gate-war-cemetery) which also contains an series of recent images of the Baghdad North Gate War Cemetery.
12The message from the Oldham family also remembers 'cousin' William Daniel Humphreys who had been killed in Gallipoli in 1915. He was the nephew of Albert's mother by adoption, Sarah Elizabeth Oldham (née Haddon). The message from Albert's siblings includes his brother Ernest who was then serving in France with the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment and was later, in March 1918, killed in action.
12The description of Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
13Albert's medal awards are recorded in the Medal Roll and on his Medal Card, available on ancestry.com.
14Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.

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