George Lawson’s WWI Service

For years, I have wondered what the truth was concerning George H. Lawson’s World War I service. By 1914, Lawson (age 50) had already proved himself a thorough scoundrel: he had been discharged from the British Army as a young man due to mental incompetence (perhaps caused by STD); he had swindled several communities by setting up short-lived baseball teams and leagues; he had abused and discarded three wives; he had permanently alienated his family; he had cheated dozens with his quack hypnotism cures; he had served jail time for medical malpractice; he had ruined his stage career through lechery and deceit; and he had angered the entire (white-dominant) organized sporting world by promoting the idea of an integrated baseball league.

From the above, it seems like George Lawson would be the last person you’d want in your military. Yet he returned to Boston in April 1919 wearing a Canadian-British military uniform with the rank of Sergeant-Major, and full of stories of his battle exploits. In Baseball Fiends and Flying Machines (2009) I suggested that his rank appeared to be real, but questioned his stories of past service with Kitchener; and at Zeebrugge in 1918, calling them almost certain fabrications.

Lawson’s WWI unit was part of a Canadian-American force popularly known as “Kitchener’s Navy” in honor of the former commander, but his tale of actually serving with Kitchener in 1898 is a fabrication. In my TypePad blog from 2011, I listed George’s true war record as among the few mysteries about the Lawsons yet to be unearthed.

Now we have much detail, supplied by George himself:

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