Bomber Command pilot and lawyer;
Born: May 7, 1920; Died: December 1, 2012.
Philip Dawson, who has died aged 92, was a young airman whose scrapes during the Second World War fuelled his desire to live the rest of his life to the full.
Loading article content
After enlisting in the RAF at 20, he completed 30 missions as a Bomber Command pilot, was shot down twice and went on to fly Wellingtons on death-defying minesweeping operations along the Suez Canal.
Later, in civilian life, he became a well-known Aberdeen advocate, a committed charity worker and a supporter of youth initiatives. Once a talented all-round sportsman, he took up curling and led the World Curling Federation.
The son of schoolteacher Helen Tawse and First World War veteran Colonel James Dawson DSO, who became Aberdeen's director of education, he attended Aberdeen Grammar School and gained his MA before joining the RAF.
He served as a ground gunner during the Battle of Britain and then trained as a Wellington bomber pilot with Bomber Command.
The Bomber Boys, whose average age was just 22, took off into the night skies knowing that with each mission some of them would not return. Their life expectancy was six weeks but somehow luck was on Mr Dawson's side, a fact he acknowledged in later life.
When his aircraft was shot down he twice limped home more or less safely. Although each time the plane crash-landed just short of the aerodrome, leaving him injured, he survived to fight another day. The legacy of the first crash was a large scar on his upper lip which he simply disguised by sporting a moustache. In the second he lost a lower tooth resulting in him giving up cigarettes in favour of a pipe which he wedged in the gap.
His further war service saw him posted to the Middle East but, while refuelling in Malta, he found himself trapped on the island as it was blitzed by the Germans. Unable to get out, he spent six months in Malta as a ground gunner before heading for north Africa on a Merchant Navy ship. The night he set sail half the fleet was destroyed.
Again, he survived thanks to good luck, and went on to take part in a vital, but dangerous, campaign to take out mines littering the Suez Canal. Flying a Wellington DW1 bomber, specially converted for minesweeping duties, he completed 48 missions to detonate the explosives and help to keep the route open.
The Wellingtons had been designed with a large hoop underneath the fuselage. An electrical generator provided power to the hoop creating a magnetic field that could explode the mines. However, it was a task that required a delicate balancing act. To trigger the explosions the Wellingtons had to make a slow, low-level sweep along the canal. Too fast and the mines would not ignite, too slow and they risked blowing up their own plane.
Mr Dawson, who also served in Italy, remained in the RAF until 1946. Back home he became an Air Training Corps gliding instructor at Aberdeen Airport and gained a law degree from Aberdeen University.
He worked as a private client solicitor, initially with local law firm Alexander and Gillan and then at James and George Collie in Aberdeen, where he became a senior partner. After retiring in 1986 he became president of the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen from 1987-89.
A keen sportsman as a youth, he played rugby for Aberdeen Grammar School and its FPs team as well as tennis and cricket. Post-war he became a curler and helped to develop Aberdeen curling rink. He served as president of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, director of Aberdeen Curling Club at Stoneywood and president of the World Curling Federation.
He also spent many years actively supporting the Aberdeen Association of Social Services, of which he was chairman. He took a keen interest in its Linn Moor residential school for children with special needs and helped to set up Easter Anguston Farm, which supports people with learning disabilities by providing training on a working farm. He contributed greatly to other organisations including the Children's Shelter, Aberdeen Lads' Club and the Scout Association.
A lifelong aviation expert, he donated much of his own collection of memorabilia, including log books, to the RAF museum at Hendon and was a guest of honour at the unveiling of a war memorial at Aberdeen Airport in 2009. Two years ago he was made a Burgess of Guild for his contribution to Aberdeen – a contribution that resulted from his philosophy that he should put back into life what he got out of it.
His first wife Iola died many years ago and he is survived by his second Marlene, his sons Tony and Philip, and grandchildren Fraser and Fiona.