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January 16, 2017

The third installment in the story of William Taylor Dawson describes his life after the First World War, including his experiences as a guest of honour of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment.

After the war, William Taylor Dawson returned home and started working for the freight company Bahr Behrend & Co. In 1924 he married May Elliot and they had two daughters, Audrey and Sybil. Growing up, both girls remembered their father being a regular attendee at remembrance services and keeping in touch with former tank friends.

Going to Germany

In 1965, at the age of 77, William was invited on an all-expenses paid trip to Hohne in Germany as guest of honour of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment.

 “When he went to Germany as an invitation, it was a great thing for him and he was really moved.” Sybil Robilliard, William’s daughter

Being a veteran of the first tank attack he was treated with great respect and admiration.

“So far as my experiences with the Royal Tank Regiment at Hohne are concerned, they were simply overwhelming in their welcome and hospitality from the Colonel and Major right downwards. It seems as if they could not do enough for the ‘old veteran’.” William in a letter home to his daughter Audrey, 1965

Driving the Centurion

A local newspaper report of William’s trip to Germany. ‘He was thrilled to bits to drive that Centurion.’ Audrey Mitchell

A local newspaper report of William’s trip to Germany. ‘He was thrilled to bits to drive that Centurion.’
Audrey Mitchell

Whilst on the trip William was given the chance to drive a Centurion and described the experience in his letter to Audrey:

Monday morning the great event – driving the Centurion tank. 50 tons, 750 hp, Rolls Royce engine, gun with a barrel 20 feet, firing a big shell of 4″ diameter. Going to it I sat on top with the driver and the sergeant beside me explaining things. They had provided me with their black overalls. It is of course an enormous and complicated machine. I got down the hatch in the front to the driver’s seat and the sergeant again explained the starting clutch, gears and foot break, also steering. I put the gear into neutral and started the engine with a roar which seemed nearly to shake your teeth out. I managed to get first gear in without difficulty and away we went. I found the steering very easy, far easier than our old tanks. Changing gear however was a bit tricky, I managed somehow and was soon roaming away in second and third gear with the accelerator hard down, over the obstacles through deep holes.

Although he had other interests including photography, fly fishing and painting watercolours as well as a successful career in shipping, William’s First World War service remained something which stayed clearly in his memory and was something his daughters felt he was justly proud.

“He was a very brave man and very pleased to have contributed the war effort.”

William Taylor Dawson died in 1973, aged 85.

Missed the beginning of his story? Read Part One and Part Two

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