Photograph of Percy in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MRP/4F/008
(L to R) Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Military Division); Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; 1935 Jubilee Medal; 1937 Coronation Medal; 1953 Coronation Medal; Territorial Decoration
Percy was born on the 20th February 1887 in Bury, Lancashire. His father was called Samuel and his mother was Emily. He had 5 older siblings: Edith Ellen, Florence Emily, Harold Lewis, Annie and Beatrice Mary, and one younger brother called William H. By 1911 William and one other child whose name we don't know had died.
In 1891 Samuel worked for a 'bleacher, dyer and calico printer' and the family lived at Highfield House in Harpurhey, Manchester. By 1901 Samuel had become an agent for a brewing company, and they had moved to 241 Claremont Road in Withington, Manchester. Percy had found work as well; he was an electrical engineer's clerk. Ten years later Percy still lived with his parents, now at 15 Mauldeth Road West in Withington. He had become a traveller for a brewing company. We don't know whether it was the same one his father still worked for.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and, like thousands of other men from the Manchester area, Percy enlisted into one of the City Battalions being formed by its workers. He joined the 1st City Battalion on the 29th August. This later became the 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, and Percy was given the service number 6368. When he enlisted Percy was 5 feet 6 1/2 inches tall and weighed 127 pounds. He had grey eyes, but we don't know his hair colour.
Percy trained with the 16th Battalion at Heaton Park in Manchester until April 1915 when he moved to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire. In September they moved to Larkhill in Wiltshire, and then on the 8th November Percy sailed to France.
At first Percy was a member of IV Platoon in A Company. In 1914 this company was commanded by Hubert Worthington with Wilfrith Elstob as his Second in Command. Both men's medals are in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection.
At some point Percy became a member of the Battalion Signal Section, responsible for sending and receiving messages using field telephones, Morse code and semaphore. He was known as Signaller 'Daw' to his comrades.
In January 1916 Percy moved to the Somme sector of the front with the 16th Battalion. He spent the first half of the year rotating between the trenches and the rear areas. A large offensive was planned for this sector, so during June he left the front and took part in large scale training for this attack.
The Somme Offensive began on the 1st July, and Percy took part in the 16th Battalion's attack on Montauban that day. Percy displayed great bravery in keeping the 16th Battalion in contact with higher headquarters and was awarded the Military Medal. His award was published in the London Gazette on the 16th November 1916.
The Battalion took part in more fighting during July, at Trones Wood on the 9th and then at Guillemont on the 29th. Percy was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 31st July.
Percy continued to serve with the 16th Battalion until the 25th February 1917. He had been selected to train as an officer, so he returned to the UK to begin his training. On the 5th March he joined the 17th Officer Cadet Battalion based at Kinmel Park near Rhyl in North Wales. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on the 28th August and returned to France during September.
Percy was assigned to the 1/8th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 9th November. He joined them whilst they were stationed in Belgium, taking part in the Passchendaele Offensive. He first went into the front line as an officer on the 27th. After coming out of the line Percy went on leave to the UK between the 7th and the 29th December.
Percy stayed with the 1/8th Battalion until the 19th August 1918 when he went on leave again. He led his men as they retreated from Arras to Amiens in the face of the German Spring Offensive of March and April. When he returned from leave on the 4th September he took part in the Hundred Days Offensive that drove the Germans back and brought the war to an end on the 11th November.
We don't know what Percy did between then and the 2nd April 1919 when he returned to the UK. He relinquished his commission on the 26th May 1920. We don't know his civilian job.
The 8th Battalion was disbanded during 1919 but reformed the next year as a unit of the Territorial Army (TA). Percy decided to join and by the time of the first annual training camp in 1920 he commanded C Company in the rank of Captain.
During April 1921 a General Strike was threatened. The Government was worried the police would not be able to control it so they established an unarmed Defence Force to provide backup. Percy joined the 8th (Defence Force) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. The force was never needed, as the strike never took place. Percy left the unit on the 14th July and returned to the TA. He was promoted to Major that November.
Percy married Lillian Dean in Manchester on the 30th September 1924. His fellow officers presented him with an engraved cigarette casket to mark the occasion. Their son Frederick was born between October and December 1925. We don't know whether they had any other children.
On the 16th February 1928 Percy became Second in Command of the 8th Battalion. He opened a new chapter in his life later that year when he was elected to Manchester City Council as a Councillor. He was a Conservative and represented Didsbury Ward.
A highlight of Percy's career must have been when he was chosen to join a parade before King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 16th May 1930. The King was the new Colonel in Chief of the Manchester Regiment and this was the first opportunity he had had to meet the unit.
Percy was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on the 16th February 1932 and took command of the 8th Battalion. The appointment was intended to last for 4 years. Percy helped ensure that the Battalion was as well recruited and trained as it could possibly be, and led his soldiers during their training. The 8th Battalion made 'steady progress' under his command, and Percy was known for doing all he could to help its members.
On the 17th July 1934 the City of Manchester presented 2 sets of silver drums to the Manchester Regiment as a symbol of the links between the city and the unit. Percy's influence with the City and the Regiment was important in helping to bring this about.
In February 1936 Percy's period in command came to an end. By this time he was one of only 2 officers still serving with the 8th Battalion who had seen service during the First World War. It was decided that he should remain in command for another 2 years in order to help the other officers gain more experience. He was promoted to Brevet Colonel on the 16th February.
Later in 1936 Percy was a founder member of the Manchester Regiment Chapel Committee. Three of its other members have medals in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection: Hubert Worthington, Francis Dorling and Thomas Blatherwick. The Chapel was opened in Manchester Cathedral the next year.
Percy's service in the 8th Battalion was acknowledged on the 11th May 1937 when he was awarded the Territorial Decoration. His time in command of the Battalion ended on the 16th February 1938 and he transferred to the Reserve. The Battalion wished him a happy retirement, and promised that he would always be welcome at their Drill Hall in Ardwick. On the 9th June of that year he was appointed to be an Officer of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services in the 8th Battalion.
We don't know what Percy did during the Second World War. We don't believe he was called into the Army. He continued to sit on Manchester City Council, and he became an Alderman in 1948.
After the Second World War the TA was again disbanded. It reformed in 1948. Each battalion was allowed to have an Honorary Colonel, and the officers of the 8th Battalion offered the job to Percy. He took up the post on the 1st April. His interest in and devotion to the 8th Battalion meant that he was greatly liked.
Percy became the 50th Lord Mayor of Manchester on the 24th May 1950. Percy had kept in close touch with his old comrades from the 16th Battalion, and they were particularly proud of his new role. He also visited the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Berlin during September. He held the position of Lord Mayor for 1 year.
Also during 1950 Percy became Chairman of the Regimental Chapel Committee after the death of Thomas Blatherwick. The Chapel had been bombed in 1940. When it was reopened on the 16th November 1951 Percy was present and welcomed Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), who was Colonel in Chief of the Manchester Regiment, to the service.
On the 30th October 1951 Percy was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Lancaster. At this time he lived at 19 Fog Lane in Didsbury. At some point between 1948 and 1951 he also became a Justice of the Peace.
In March 1956 Percy left his position as Honorary Colonel of the 8th Battalion. He was succeeded by Richard Martin-Bird, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection.
Percy continued to serve on Manchester City Council. His was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in January 1968 'for services in the field of Local Authority staff negotiations'. In the same year a ship was named after him. The MV Percy Dawson worked on the Manchester Ship Canal carrying sewage from the Davyhulme Sewage Works out to sea to be dumped.
Percy was made an Honorary Alderman in 1971, which brought his political career to an end. He remained a keen member of several Old Comrades Associations until he died on the 19th April 1975, aged 88. He was greatly missed and his funeral at Stockport Crematorium on the 24th April was attended by many dignitaries and friends.
Percy had also served as a Master of St David's Masonic Lodge, and was Chairman of the 16th Battalion Old Comrade's Association for many years. The MV Percy Dawson was sold to a Greek owner in 2000 and renamed the Olympic.