The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra
|Captain George Lawson|
Captain George Langrigg Leathes Lawson - A Surgeon Captain of Distinction
Recently the New South Wales committee was shown an important item of Boer War Memorabilia. This was an illuminated address to Captain George Langrigg Leathes Lawson, the regimental medical officer of the New South Wales Imperial Bushmen.
George Lawson was born in England in proximally 1858 and completed his medical training in Scotland (LMCP Edinburgh), and England (MRCS). This included a stint working at Guy's Hospital, London before coming to New South Wales on the ‘Midlothian’ in 1883.
Most of his career prior to the Boer War was as a resident medical officer in New South Wales country towns, including Gosford, Bega, Balranald and Goulburn. He also had a short stint in Auckland, 1885 and on the Western Australian goldfields at Yaloo 1897 -1898. His chief interest appeared to be in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. This would stand him in good stead in his role in South Africa.
Selected as RMO of the NSWIB in 1900, he served with the throughout the campaign and was clearly regarded as having a major impact on disease control in the unit. He wrote personally to the families of those who were casualties in the unit. One such letter was printed in Sydney newspapers in 1900
Klerksdorp, November 19, 1900. My dear Mrs. Murray, — You will already have heard the sad news about your son. He was one of the advanced scouts. They had been told to be careful and not fire too hastily, as we expected to meet Lord Methuen's men. They saw four men dressed like ours, and one with overcoats on very like our men: They rode quietly up, quite close, and your son got off his horse to speak to them, thinking they were some we expected to meet, when they suddenly fired and galloped away, wounding another man severely in the wrist, and hitting your son in the lower and left part of the abdomen. Death must have been almost instantaneous. There was an empty cartridge in his rifle, so I presume he lived long enough to pull a trigger. He was well-liked by the men in his squadron, who deeply felt his loss, and was a good soldier. He was buried in the little graveyard at Kaffirs Kraal
On the unit’s return to Sydney he was presented with the illuminated address from the Officers and men of the unit at Sydney Town Hall, 19 July 1901 in the presence of the Lieutenant Governor Sir Frederick Darley, the New South Wales Military Commandant Major-General G A French and the Premier of New South Wales. This was accompanied by a travelling dress-bag and a Coromandel writing-desk presented by the men of the contingent alone.
‘Upon the occasion of our return from South Africa, we, the officers and men of the Imperial Contingent, wish to testify to our high estimation of your many good qualities as a soldier, surgeon, and a man. It is with feelings of admiration and pride that we recall instances of your many humane acts in the battlefield, while your devoted attention at all times to the sick and wounded has won the heart of every one of your comrades in arms. We ask your acceptance of this address as a token of our sincere regard,’
The address was presented by Col J A K Mackay, the commanding officer on behalf of the officers and men. We know of no other such address being given to a Boer War medical officer.
At the outbreak of World War I, already too old for the AIF, he travelled to England to enlist. There he formed, trained and commanded the 2/3 City of London Field Ambulance, part of the 56th (1st London) division of the British Army serving in France. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel by the end of the war.
After World War I he settled in the Rooty Hill area of New South Wales and became a prominent member of his community holding various positions including President of the New South Wales Imperial Bushmen's Association. Newspapers in the 1920s and 30s regularly carried reports of Dr Lawson's involvement with the local schools of Walgrove and Eastern Creek and Rooty Hill.
In World War II by then in his 80s he travelled to France probably in an attempt to join the French Red Cross. After the collapse of France he was found to be in England where he was an active member of the Emergency Services as fire watcher for the remainder of the war. He returned to Australia after the war and died at his home in Rooty Hill in 1948. His dress uniform and the address are on display at Rooty Hill RSL.
Lieutenant Colonel David Deasey RFD 2015