LAWSON, Robert John

1st World War
Date of Birth
Date Attested
Attested at
Brussels, Ontario
Original Unit
Regimental Number
Date of Death
Age at Death
38 years 9 months
Biographical Summary

DIVISIONAL UNIT:        3rd Canadian Infantry Division
                                             9th Infantry Brigade
                                             58th Battalion - Central Ontario
                                             Canadian Infantry Corps
SERVICE NO:                   654677
RESIDENCE:                    Blyth – Ontario 
DATE OF BIRTH:            January 27, 1879
                                             Blyth – Morris Township- County of Huron - Ontario
DATE OF DEATH:           October 26, 1917                 38 years     9 months
MEMORIAL:                    Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial – Ieper –
                                             West Vlaanderen – Belgium
                                             Panel 18-24 & Panel 26-30
PARENT:                           Mr. John Lawson – Blyth – Ontario
Occupation:                        Farm Labourer                     Religion:     Presbyterian
Enlistment:                         Brussels – March 24, 1916 – 161st Huron Battalion
Enlistment Age:                 37 years     2 months

The 161st arrived in Liverpool on November 11, 1916. On November 30th, he transferred to the 58th Battalion at Dibgate – Kent and went overseas in very early December and joined his unit in the field on March 5, 1917.
Private Lawson and his unit were located near Passchendaele where he was killed in action.
The 3rd Division advanced against Passchendaele and through mud that was waist deep and sucked men to their death. They advanced toward the Bellevue Spur by following the ruined Gravenstafel-Passchendaele road. They advanced over the forward front line enemy positions before the enemy brought down a terrifying artillery barrage that lasted many hours. Still they advanced until the enemy fire stopped the. They hold these gains for a period of time before the decision was made to fall back. They dug in and looked for any kind of cover available. The 3rd Division did not reach its objectives but did manage to advance 1,000 yards.
The casualties totaled 2,900 men with 600 being killed.
The advance at 5:40 am followed the artillery barrage under wet and heavy clouds and light winds. The enemy responded quickly. However, when the Brigade artillery lifted it was found the right advance was slower on the right than the left and this caused casualties. The depth of the barrage was 300 yards.
The assaulting Battalions were the 58th / 43rd with the 52nd Battalion in support and the 116th Battalion in reserve.
The advance continued and a number of “pill boxes” at Lamkerk and Dad Trench were captured and it was here they came under heavy and severe enemy machine-gun fire from the trenches and heavy enfilade fire from Bellevue Farm to the left of the front.
As the advanced moved ahead more heavy enemy fire was coming from Crest Farm and here the men were forced to use any shell hole available for cover. Following this there was a heavy, bloody and bitter fight for Contour Trench and then in mid-afternoon 64 enemy soldiers surrendered. The enemy trench system was consolidated at this point.
During the advance and the fighting that followed there were very heavy casualties taken.
During the night machine-gun posts were established in front of Contour Trench but at no time did the enemy threaten to try and recapture what they had lost.
500 men from the Battalion began the day and when the day of fighting came to a close 303 of those men 
      were either killed, wounded or missing – a casualty rate of 61%.