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Herbert Dawes was born in West Derby in 1889, the son of Colin Campbell Dawes. By 1901, they had moved to Wolverhampton and his father had become a widower. They were living at 56 Cannock Road together with Herbert’s sister Beatrice Alice and brother Henry Havelock. In 1902, Colin married Alice Prince, who already had a son, Richard Prince. By 1911, he is down as “Richard Prince Dawes”, and the family are now at 180 Merridale Street West. The household is completed with two of Colin’s grandsons, Henry and Colin George Dawes, but it is not clear whose children these are. By this date Herbert has become a safe painter.

On 15 March 1913, Herbert married Nellie May Steed at Wolverhampton Register Office, and the couple moved to 6 Preston Terrace, Elm Street. Their son, Thomas, was unfortunately born and died in 1914. On 8 December 1915 he enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry (number 102072). He had three further children with his wife – Edna May (born 3 May 1916), Agnes Alice (born 2 June 1918) and Dorothy N. (born 1929). Herbert died in 1961 at the age of 70.