D-Day Dawson

Real Name: SteveDawson

Identity/Class: Normal human

Occupation: British Army sergeant

Affiliations: Whitey


Known Relatives: None

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: U.K.

First Appearance: Battle Picture Weekly #1 (IPC, 8th March 1975)



Wounded on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day landings, Sgt. Steve Dawson survives, but only he knows he has a bullet lodged next to his heart. Aware that it will eventually move and kill him, he has nothing to lose and vows to fight on.

Written by Gerry Finley-Day and Ron Carpenter and illustrated by Geoff Campion and Colin Page.

Battle Picture Weekly

8th March 1975 – 22nd May 1976

14th August 1976 – 22nd January 1977

Writers: Gerry Finley-Day, Ron Carpenter, Eric Hebden, Alan Hebden, Robert Ede, Terry Magee, Pat Mills and John Wagner

Artists: Geoff Campion, Colin Page, Mike Western, Jim Watson, Bill Lacey, Casabianca and Badia

[dawson] D-Day Dawson told the tale of Sergeant Steve Dawson, shot on the beaches of Normandy on the 6th of June 1944. With a bullet pressing on his heart, Dawson is evacuated back to Blighty. A doctor on the boat home tells Dawson the round cannot be removed, and will kill him within a year. Unwilling to accept that he will not be able to fight alongside his men, when the boat is hit by a shell, sole survivor Dawson rejoins his platoon, opting to keep his condition a secret. With nothing to lose, Dawson regularly puts himself in the line of fire to save his men as they march towards Berlin, and his inevitable destiny.

D-Day Dawson was one of the most popular strips in the early days of Battle, vying with Rat Pack for the top spot in the readers’ polls. The episodic style allowed a variety of writers and artists to tackle the story without any noticeable impact on the overall quality. Gerry Finley-Day and Ron Carpenter provided the bulk of the writing during the first series, with Colin Page taking on the lion’s share of the artwork. At the end of this run, Dawson was once again wounded in action, receiving the Victoria Cross for his efforts. When the series returned from hiatus, Eric Hebden became the lead writer, again relying on Page for most of the visuals. Unfortunately for Dawson, his days in the limelight were over, the top spot having been claimed initially by Major Eazy, and then later by Darkie’s Mob. Against such competition, Dawson’s time in Battle was running out. The second stint was far shorter than the initial run, wrapping up after twenty-four episodes. With the end of the war mere days away, the bullet in his heart finally left Dawson with no more time to borrow. In a heroic act of self-sacrifice, Dawson laid down his life to save his men, walking back into the waters of the north German coast having fought his final battle.


Series One – 8th March 1975 to 22nd May 1976


Series Two – 14th August 1976 to 22nd January 1977

Steve Dawson was a sergeant in the British army who took a bullet to the chest in the process of saving a fellow soldier during the D-Day Normandy landings in June 1944. He was returned to one of the Allied boats, where he was told by a medic that the bullet had lodged close to his heart – not close enough to have killed him on the beach but too deep to be removed. Over time – probably a year – it would edge closer to his heart and eventually end his life. Straight after receiving this news the boat was bombed and sank, killing all on board except Sergeant Dawson. His chest heavily bandaged, he waded to shore and rejoined his platoon. Nobody knew of his death sentence, so he decided to keep it a secret and join his fellow soldiers on the long push across Europe to Berlin. If he was going to go down, he was determined to take as much of the enemy down with him. ‘I’m living on borrowed time – but every second of it’s gonna be hell for the Germans.’

D-Day Dawson was the very first story to appear in Battle Picture Weekly – the first of a new wave of more mature and realistic comics aimed at boys in the mid-1970s. Its dark, tough-luck storyline and the extreme risks taken by Dawson – the soldier with nothing to lose – obviously appealed to young readers as the story remained in pole position in the comic for the first eight months of its run. Every one of its 88 episodes was a self-contained storyline, most of them with their own story title, in which Dawson took an extreme, death-defying risk in order to stick it that little bit deeper to the Jerries.

The series spanned the course of the Allies’ slow push across occupied Western Europe as the Sarge and his platoon (notable named soldiers were Corporals Spring and Crocker and Private ‘Whitey’ White) liberated villages, towns and POW camps and attacked German airfields, railway yards and rocket-launching bases. Most of the three-page episodes would open with the men already engaged in the heat of some battle, develop into a story of Dawson saving the day, and end with a final panel in which his companions congratulated him on his ability to cheat death once again while Dawson pondered solemnly on the irony of his plight.

The strip ran every week for 64 episodes between March 1975 and May 1976, then took a summer break when Dawson was temporarily shipped back to England to recuperate after suffering a shoulder wound protecting a conference of Allied generals from an enemy attack. Back home, he was awarded the Victoria Cross, but retained his death wish and rejoined his platoon at a rest camp in Arnhem for the start of the strip’s second run between August 1976 and January 1977. Within the story, Dawson’s journey ended a year after it began – in May 1945, days before the end of the war, on a beach on Germany’s north coast. Left for dead after helping Whitey and company take out a German pillbox (mirroring the events of the story’s first episode), Dawson saves his men one last time, summoning his remaining strength to shoot down an enemy support ship. Sensing death, he scrapes a message for his fellows into the sand before staggering into the sea to end his life. It’s a bitter, moving conclusion to a quality story which had reached its natural inevitable end. There was only so far this tale could go with its protagonist’s sole motivation – in narrative terms the heart-bound bullet would eventually kill the story just as it killed Sergeant Steve Dawson.

But in its prime D-Day Dawson was an outstanding story, cleverly crafted each week by a range of creators. Gerry Finley-Day, Ron Carpenter, Eric Hebden and his son Alan Hebden were the most prolific writers, while Battle Picture Weekly’s editorial team of Pat Mills and John Wagner shaped Dawson’s character by scripting some of the earliest episodes. Geoff Campion, Colin Page and Jim Watson were among the talented artists to realise the stories, although – for me – a small criticism of the series is that the frequent changes of artist made it hard to achieve a distinctive look for Steve Dawson himself. The series was reprinted in Battle between 1982 and 1984.



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