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Lordyf15

Info on Grandfather’s Photo

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Lordyf15

Hello Everyone,

 

This is my first post on the forum.  I was wondering if anyone could help me with any information on my great great grandfather’s photo?

I was given this photo from my dad many years ago, but with very little information about it.  A year ago, I visited the research department at the Imperial War Museum in London with no success on finding any records of him.  No success online either.

 

His name is Charles Phillip Dowson  (first and middle names may be reversed)

Born circa 1850s

Supposedly, knighted ‘Sir’ because of his money donations to acquire ambulances for the military.  (Unconfirmed)

 

Any information or advice would greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks,

Gaylord Dowson

Honolulu, Hawaii

BF373097-1CE0-4066-9459-5993B50A1DCC.jpeg

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sadbrewer

Do you have any knowledge as to where he was born...lived...died or who he married and where she was from ...anything could help.

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FROGSMILE

He is wearing a quasi official British uniform in the style of an officer, but without the insignia of any regular or mainstream auxiliary unit.  His collar badges are made up of embroidered thread in the shape of a fused grenade, with a similar grenade on his cap (both are similar to insignia used by the French Foreign Legion).  
He does appear to have British military medals on his left breast, probably relating to a Colonial campaign, or imperial war.  On his right breast is a single, seemingly non military medal, probably for life saving (Royal Humane Society), or similar. Non military medals were worn in that way.  He is clearly an elderly gentleman and over the usual age for active duty.  My guess is that he was carrying out wartime duty with a local auxiliary force.

 

1530F579-F8EA-43F1-B6E2-5D8FF6B0D336.jpeg

0C1A1E4F-8F47-4ADB-87AC-6FDDE6559671.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Andrew Upton
2 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

...He does appear to have British military medals on his left breast, probably relating to a Colonial campaign, or imperial war....

 

They are the standard British War and Victory Medals for someone who served overseas in a theatre of war in 1916 or later. The photo must therefore be post-war:

 

Image result for british war and victory medals

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KernelPanic

To my eyes, the ribbons for the paired medals on the left breast of the photo don't seem to match either the BW or VM medal. The left hand (of the photo) medal has two white stripes on the edges, while the BW ribbon has a dark and a white stripe. The right hand medal seems to have light coloured outer stripes, the VM has dark outer stripes. 

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Andrew Upton
3 minutes ago, KernelPanic said:

To my eyes, the ribbons for the paired medals on the left breast of the photo don't seem to match either the BW or VM medal. The left hand (of the photo) medal has two white stripes on the edges, while the BW ribbon has a dark and a white stripe. The right hand medal seems to have light coloured outer stripes, the VM has dark outer stripes. 

 

This is typical of the result of orthochromatic film that was mainly used in the period, that interprets colours like blue and purple as light and sees reds and oranges as dark. It has been discussed heavily on the forum in the past...

 

Edited by Andrew Upton

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KernelPanic

Interesting! You learn something every day. Thanks.

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Lordyf15

Wow!

That’s the most information I’ve ever gotten on him.  The Imperial War Museum didn’t even offer that info.  
In regards to his English birthplace, family and marriage there are no records to be found, even on Ancestry.com.

I was told that he was married to and English women but had ended up in Japan and remarried a Japanese women and had a son, my great grandfather Joseph Dowson, who bought his family to Hawaii in the early 1900s. Sadly, all inquiries into Japanese ancestry is non existent.

Thanks everyone for replying so quickly!

You've made my day!

 

Aloha

Gaylord Dowson

 

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2ndCMR

If you were to scan the photo at 600 dpi and post that, rather than just a photo of a photo, that would be a good start.

 

It's possible he was an ex-Legionnaire, but you could inquire at the museum of the Legion Etrangere in Aubagne, near Marseilles, though I think it is their policy in general not to release information on former Legionairres they might do so if the case was "cold enough".

 

If that is a Royal Humane Society medal as previously posted, there would have been records of such awards, which may still exist.
 

He appears too old for WWI unless the photo was taken after WWII.  It is possible he served in some capacity in a French colony or possession such as Tahiti and that this explains the uniform.   It does not resemble a Foreign Legion uniform from before WWII, let alone WWI.

 

After a bit more digging...

 

Is it possible his name was Phillip Septimus Dowson, born Geldeston, Norfolk in 1843?  A man with that name seems to have gone back and forth to Honolulu from Santa Barbara, CA several times in the 1920s.

 

There is a British medal card for a Phillip S. Dowson, but I cannot tell if it is for Phillip Septimus Dowson.

 

I see there was a retired Major P. S. Dowson who was involved in Red Cross work in France in WWI: https://archive.org/stream/fordauntlessfran00biny/fordauntlessfran00biny_djvu.txt

 

It's starting to come together I'd say.: seems to have come from a family with some money.  Father was a Brewer Master and a farmer of 500 acres employing 24 men and eight boys in 1851.  Phillip was employed by Sugar Refiners Co, Middle Temple in the 1861 Census, a "civil engineer" in Yokohama, Japan in 1866/67, in 1880 marries one Ellen Effie Dent, in 1881 Census a brewer living in Chelsea, London.  By 1891 "living on own means" in Glamorgan, Wales as an officer in the 3rd Batt.(?) Welsh Regiment (Territorial), (and possibly a "gentleman farmer), spends the war with ambulances in France, moves to Santa Barbara CA, about 1920, with trips to Honolulu and the UK throughout the decade.  Wife dies at Maple Bay, British Columbia in 1929, he goes "home" to die in Berkshire in 1931. 

 

If he had a family in Japan he obviously left them behind when he returned to the UK.  Not at all uncommon in the 19th Century for men to do that.   His parents died in 1876 and 77 so it would be quite likely he returned to the UK then, if not previously.

 

Records in Yokohama were probably destroyed in the great earthquake of 1923 when most of the city burned.  WWII might have got the rest, but one never knows! 

 

As he seems to have had no children with his English wife, he was presumably going to Honolulu to see his Japanese son, and might even have bankrolled his emigration from Japan.  One wonders if the son brought his mother to Hawaii with him?!  

Edited by 2ndCMR

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FROGSMILE

Absolutely brilliant detective work, 2ndCMR, I really do feel that you’ve found the right man and his extraordinary life.

Just one thing: if he was in the “3rd” Battalion of the Welsh Regiment, it was the Special Reserve (formerly Militia) battalion of the regiment, and not a Territorial unit.  The 3rd (SR) Battalion operated out of Maindy Barracks, Cardiff.

 I agree with you that it seems likely that he took a Japanese mistress in the late 1860s and left some progeny there, as was so common with European men working in all parts of Asia at that time.

 I wonder if his ambulance unit provided support to a French unit with the embroidered insignia that we see, it would explain the badges French style. The uniform would of course have almost certainly been obtained from his tailor.  His ambulance work would also probably explain his award of what appears to be a Royal Humane Society medal.

441FAD9A-B965-4C0E-AD69-218107A42E38.jpeg

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A2C33B0F-F4A2-404F-B437-1C59E01696A3.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Lordyf15

OMG!

You have hit the jackpot!

This has to be him. 
We heard he tried to build a vineyard in Santa Barbara. 
The ambulance story in France ties it together. 
Gonna ask relatives to review your info but this has to be him. 
You can’t believe how many of us have been trying to track his history down!

How on earth were you able to track it down so quickly?

Unbelievable!

Thank you so much

 

Aloha

Gaylord Dowson

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corisande

There is a full tree on Ancestry - click for tree on  Ancestry

 

1866 [edited to correct date of initiation] he was initiated into Freemasons Lodge in Yokohama - click .

"Yokohama Masonic Hall, constructed by Whitfield & Dowson

There is an extensive history of Freemasons in Japan - click - in which he is mentioned

 

His Probate shows he was living at Bath Club , Middlesex (but there is also his American address) when he died at Winchcombe Farm , Bucklebury, Berks in 1931 and his executors were Henry Houghton Enfield and Sidney Houghton Dowson

Edited by corisande

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corisande

And the MIC is something I have not seen before "French Rx " ??? . Can anyone say what this is?

 

mic-dowson.jpg.5d942e8dd537bf0ead6da0cc4befe3e4.jpg

 

 

 

 

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FROGSMILE

A similar inscription is placed against his medal roll at the bottom of his MIC along with serial and page numbers.  If those numbers can be traced it should explain what the French Rx was.  I imagine it’s connected with the British volunteer ambulance units supporting the French forces.

 

Bingo!  Got it I think.  Stands for French Red Cross (hence Rx).  See link in post #9 above.  I imagine there might be some French Red Cross records from WW1 if they’ve survived.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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corisande

An 1897 book shows him as a Territorial Regt Major. I cannot get his commission in LG, someone else may have more luck

 

The Army List shows him promoted Major on 18 Sep 1895

 

dowson-1.jpg.3a62d4a871f7af5b36f687d47678a054.jpg

Edited by corisande

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rksimpson
13 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

Bingo!  Got it I think.  Stands for French Red Cross (hence Rx).  

Hi

Yes you are right, the medal roll is headed British Committee French Red Cross for his British War and Victory medals. It also lists that he was in 1A France and Belgium and from 6/17 to 7/18.

 

LG here - https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/26662/page/5197/data.pdf https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/27018/page/6304

 

regards

 

Robert

Edited by rksimpson

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corisande

And his business in Yokohama

 

dowson-japan.jpg.aff5a2d5fd6f99ce6bc5c42c6047f7ce.jpg

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FROGSMILE
47 minutes ago, corisande said:

An 1897 book shows him as a Territorial Regt Major. I cannot get his commission in LG, someone else may have more luck

 

 


That excerpt confirms he was 3rd Militia Battalion (later Special Reserve) as I had imagined.  It’s not Territorial, who were not formed until 1908.  There was however, also a 3rd Volunteer Battalion, but we now know he was definitely in the Militia battalion of the Welsh Regiment.  Thank you for posting it.  The fact that he reached the rank of Major indicates that he served with the militia for some years.  Before 1881 the unit was known as the Royal Glamorgan Light Infantry Militia. His commissioning date will indicate if he served that far back.

 

 

3AD08227-1D70-4A93-8101-5740CCC898D7.jpeg

2F4A4CA9-4DCB-4945-997E-529F81DFF359.jpeg

3E4D4C56-406A-46BF-A18A-906AF01032FC.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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FROGSMILE
11 minutes ago, rksimpson said:

Hi

Yes you are right, the medal roll is headed British Committee French Red Cross for his British War and Victory medals. It also lists that he was in 1A France and Belgium and from 6/17 to 7/18.

 

regards

 

Robert


Thanks for confirming it, Robert.  It should be possible to trace the movements of his ambulance unit I imagine, providing the French records were not destroyed in WW2.

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corisande

And a bonus mark for those who recognised RHS medal

from 1873 paper

dowson-2.jpg.e34c0e611fab00712b63f07cc71e8445.jpg

 

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FROGSMILE
5 minutes ago, corisande said:

And a bonus mark for those who recognised RHS medal

from 1873 paper

 

 


Fantastic to see that confirmed.  It was only because I had seen the medal worn by other British soldiers in the same manner and it has quite a distinctive clasp and suspension bar.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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FROGSMILE
2 hours ago, Lordyf15 said:

OMG!

You have hit the jackpot!

This has to be him. 
We heard he tried to build a vineyard in Santa Barbara. 
The ambulance story in France ties it together. 
Gonna ask relatives to review your info but this has to be him. 
You can’t believe how many of us have been trying to track his history down!

How on earth were you able to track it down so quickly?

Unbelievable!

Thank you so much

 

Aloha

Gaylord Dowson


As well as the earliest census it should be possible to trace the Dowson family line back a long way via the Geldeston church records.  It is still a small village even today.

 

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57E4828F-27F4-4FAE-AEAB-946C88D4AB49.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Margosh

Perfect example of why I love this Forum. Well done chaps.

 

Margaret

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sadbrewer

He was married in February 1881 according to this article from the British Newspaper Archive. 

 

Screenshot_20191114-104014.jpg

 

The Brewery connection is Hancock's of Wiveliscombe...that purchased a brewery in Cardiff in the 1880's and became one of Wales largest brewers with over 500 tied pubs...sold out to Bass in 1968...sadly.

In 1890 he was a Captain in the Royal Glamorgan Militia.

In 1893 he was the Chairman of Carmarthen United Breweries.

Edited by sadbrewer

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FROGSMILE

All we need now are his militia officer’s commission details to see whether he served before July 1881.

 

I wonder why he married in Brussels.  

Edited by FROGSMILE

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