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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private DM2/164960
641st Motor Transport Coy - Army Service Corps (Attached to 111th Signal Section, Royal Engineers)
Who was Killed in Action on Thursday, 29th August 1918
Age 33

Plot I Row C Grave 1
Hem Farm Military Cemetery, Hem-Monacu, Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Hem Farm Military Cemetery

Hem Farm Military Cemetery, Hem-Monacu, Somme, France1

Jonathan Dalby Lawton was born in Kingsland, Leominster, Herefordshire in 18882, the youngest of two sons of David Andrew (b. 1846, Leominster) and Sarah Lawton (b. c1847, Riddings, Derbyshire née Alton)3. David Andrew, then an excise man, had married Sarah in November 18713 but, although their eldest son, George Augustus Lawton was born a year later in November 1872, it seems that it was not a happy marriage. Well before then, at the end of April 1872, Sarah's brother Edmund, who was the landlord of the Plough Inn in Alfreton, Derbyshire, had challenged his brother-in-law about his behavior to his sister, in the street with a whip and had subsequently been found guilty of assault4. Following this episode, the couple were, for the most part, to live apart. In 1881 David Andrew was living at Kingsland as a farmer, with his widowed mother. Sarah was then keeping house for her brother George who was then keeping the Brick & Tile Inn at Sutton in Ashfield, Notts5.

Although, for the most part, this separation was to continue, it appears that, for a short time at least, David Andrew and Sarah were reconciled as, in 1888, their second son, Jonathan Dalby Lawton was born in Kingsland. By 1891, however, Sarah and her two sons were back living with her brother Edmund's family6. By this time Edmund was well established as a cigar manufacturer in Nottingham. From his factory on Derby Road, near Canning Circus. his firm became the largest in dependant cigar producers in the country and was to be continued by the family after Edmund's death in 19277.

By 1899, following her family's tradition as publicans, had moved to Beeston to operate newly rebuilt Victoria Inn on what was then known as Rylands Road - now the section of Dovecote Lane, south of Queens Road. Situated next to the railway station, the hotel offered ten rooms, largely for commercial travelers as well as a dining room, bar and pleasure gardens to appear to a wider clientele. It was a sizable undertaking in which Sarah, by 1901, was being assisted by her eldest son and three servants8. Then aged 16, Jonathan soon followed the others in the business. By 1911, all three were involved and they had also been joined by one of Sarah's cousins as well as employing four servants.9.

Jonathan, no doubt with the need to assist his mother in running the hotel a priority, was not amongst those who enlisted so enthusiastically in the early months of the war. But, by 1916, when the number of men volunteering for service was diminishing and was not meeting the relentless demand from the Western Front and the Government was looking for ways to fill the gap. The Derby Scheme, which introduced canvassing for volunteers had still not persuaded the required numbers and the Military Service Act was now enacted which meant that, from March 1916, all single men aged between 18 and 41 (with some exceptions) would be automatically conscripted. Accordingly, it seems that Jonathan enlisted at Beeston with the Army Service Corps in March 191610

After basic training, Private Lawton was posted to 641st Motor Transport Company which had been formed in January 1916 to provide an ammunition column to carry out the vital role of supplying a Siege Battery's heavy guns and howitzers while it was in action on the Western Front - initially, in its case, 57 Siege Battery. Although we have no specific evidence, it seems likely that Private Lawton entered France in this role early, probably late in 191611.

At some point, it appears that Private Lawton was attached to 111th Signal Section, Royal Engineers and it is in that position that he was serving when he was killed on 29 August 1918. This was at the beginning of the Allies' Hundred Days Offensive which was to prove the turning point in the war. In this role he would have been involved in one or more of the roles that such units provided - basically ensuring that communication are maintained - including by wire, radio or despatch rider. While we have no record of his role, it is likely that he was providing it in a by-now fast-moving environment, on or near the front line in the Somme region.

Private Lawton's body was originally buried near where he was killed but, after the Armistice, it was exhumed and reburied in the Hem Farm Military Cemetery in Hem-Monacu, a village situated about 13 kilometres south-east of Albert, a little south of the road from Albert to Peronne and north of the River Somme. It was captured by French troops in the Battles of the Somme in 1916, and taken over by British troops later in the year. Hem Farm Military Cemetery was begun by British troops in January 1917, and used until the following March, and again in September 1918. It was greatly enlarged after the Armistice by the addition of graves from the battlefields on both sides of the Somme and from a number of smaller cemeteries. There are now nearly 600, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site.12.

Private Lawton was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal13. His financial effects of 16 13s 7d were paid, split between to his mother and his brother, on 2 December 1918 and his War Gratuity of 11 was paid to his mother on 1 December 191914.

His mother, Sarah Lawton, died in 1924, while still running the Victoria Inn, George Augustus Lawton, her surviving elder son, had married Sarah Buxton, the daughter of Walter and Laura Buxton who were then keeping the Newcastle Arms in Sutton in Ashfield. For a short time they continued to run the Victoria Hotel. In 1939, they were running the Red Lion pub in Sandiacre. Sarah died in 1940, followed by her husband George Augustus in 194515. They are buried in Beeston Cemetery with his mother Sarah16.

1The photograph of Hem Farm Military Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Leominster Registration District in Q4/1884 (Ref 6a 535).
3Their marriage was at St Mary's Church, Nottingham on 20 November 1871.
4The court case was reported in the Nottingham Journal on the 13th and 18th May 1872 and in the Sheffield Independent on 11th May 1972. Despite Sarah's evidence that her husband had struck her brother first, Edmund was found guilty and fined a total of 5 including costs. A charge by Sarah that her husband and used threats and had assaulted her was dismissed. Their son, George Augustus Lawton was born on 25 November 1872 and baptised at Sutton in Ashfield on 16 November 1873 with his father recorded as 'of Leominster, excise man'. 51881 Census - David Andrew Lawton, 34, married, farmer at Kingsland, Herefordshire (Piece 2607 Folio 89). Sarah Lawton, 35, married at Sutton in Ashfield, Notts (Piece 3316 Folio 26)
61891 Census - 48a Forest Road West, Nottingham (Piece 2691 Folio 10)
7The firm's Derby Road premises have now been tastefully restored but are remembered by the writer as they were in the 1950s, when viewed from the upper deck of the buses that stopped outside, for its virtually untouched Victorian office interior. There is a fuller account of the firm's history at www.nottinghamcivicsociety.org.uk/commendations/55-mark-of-the-month-june-2004 .
81901 Census - Victoria Hotel, Rylands Road, Beeston, Notts (Piece 3153 Folio 88)
91911 Census - Victoria Hotel, Rylands Road, Beeston, Notts (Piece 20429 RD429 SD3 ED4 Schedule 1)
10As his Army Service Record has not survived, his month of enlistment has been calculated from the amount of his War Gratuity. His place of enlistment is recorded in his entry in 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.
10This paragraph is based on the description of the role of the Motor Transport Companies and 641st in particular on the Forces War Records website at www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-army-service-corps-in-the-first-world-war/army-service-corps-mechanical-transport-companies.
A more detailed description of the role of such units can be found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammunition_column .
Burial records associated with Private Lawton's Commonwealth War Graves Commission record suggest that he may also have been connected with 332 Siege Battery Ammunition Column.
11Details the battalion's deployment on 26th August is from the battalion war diary.
12This description of Hem Farm Military Cemetery is based on that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
13Details from Jonathan's Medal Card and his Medal Roll entry - available on ancestry.com.
14Details from his entry in the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 - available on ancestry.com.
15Details of the family in the post-war period are derived from standard genealogical sources, including Probate Calendars, Electoral Rolls and the 1939 Registration.
16Their memorial stone may be seen here.

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