Ben Dodson (1886-1918)

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This page is part of a project by David Verguson to research the lives of those who appear on war memorials and rolls of honour in the Lindley area.

Biography

Son of Joe and Ann Dodson, of Marsh, Huddersfield; husband of Beatrice Dodson, of 162, New Hey Rd. Oakes, Huddersfield.

Ben was one of the few married men from the Lindley area to be killed in action. He and Beatrice Brook were married on 14 June 1914, at Lindley Parish Church (St. Stephen's), where he was a member of the Young Men's Bible Class. They were living at 43 King Street, Oakes at the time of Ben's enlistment.

Joe Dodson, Ben's father, born in Huddersfield in 1855, was a stonemason. His wife, Ann, was born in the same year in Chester, the daughter of a shoemaker, who lived in Marsh and worked as a weaver. They married in March 1875 at the High Street chapel, Huddersfield. Ben was born in 1887.

By 1891 the family were living in Cross Lane, Marsh and had five children: Arthur (aged 15), Ernest (11), Florence (8), Ben (4) and Thomas (2). They lived in only two rooms. Ben attended Holy Trinity Church of England School.

Ten years later the family lived in Cross Cottages in Marsh by which time Arthur, married in April 1899, had left home, but two more had been born: Lily then aged eight and Harry who was only 10 months old. Even though the three oldest children worked, raising a large family in four rooms on a stonemason's wage, cannot have been easy.

Tragedy struck in September 1902 when on the 17th Joe died leaving Ann a widow. Almost exactly three years later Florence died at the age of only 21.

By 1911 the family were living in a smaller house in Grasscroft Road, Marsh.

Life cannot have been easy for a widow in 1911. They were in a three-roomed house, which must have seemed small with three sons &mbdash; two now in their twenties - and a daughter aged 18 still living at home.[1] Mother and daughter must have shared one bedroom with the boys in the other.

Fortunately, the grown children were all in employment: Ben, aged 24 in 1911, and Lily, 18, both in the textile trade, one as a weaver, the other a winder. Thomas, who was two years younger than Ben, seems to have delivered fruit for a merchant and was described as a "Teamer". They were all therefore able to help Ann out financially. Harry, aged 10, was still at school in 1911.

When he enlisted 12 December 1915, at the age of 29, Ben said he was a "Pump Minder" in a woollen mill. He was later described as a "fireman" so presumably looked after the mill engine. He was enrolled into the Training Reserve Battalion though, under the "Derby Scheme" and the military service law that was passed in early 1916, he was not called for service until 27 January 1917 when he was posted to Hornsea with the 86th Training Reserve Battalion. Beatrice received 12/6d a week "Separation Allowance" and Ben's former employer would have made up the difference so the family suffered no loss due to Ben's military service. A month later Ben was transferred to Sutton-on-Hull. He sailed from Folkestone to Boulogne on 8 April that year.

At his medical examination in Huddersfield in December 1916 the Lt. Col. in the R.A.M.C. described him as 5' 8" tall and weighing 150 lbs. His chest size was said to be 37 inches. He was among the larger Lindley recruits. However, he had bad teeth and a varicose vein in his left leg.

After a month at the Etaples Depot near Le Touquet, he joined the 1/7 Northumberland Fusiliers, remained at the depot and was given a new number. By the end of May 1917, he was in the "Field". Serving in the mechanised unit as a driver, he was in Rouen. On 22 September he was admitted to the Northern General Hospital in Manchester with PVO &mbdash; Pulmonary Venous Obstruction &mbdash; and a month later was transferred to the Chester War Hospital. He was discharged on 24 November 1917. He returned to France and spent some months at various depots.

On 30 March 1918, he was in hospital in Rouen and then Trouville with a gunshot wound. Probably this same wound seemed to have trouble healing and he was admitted to a depot hospital again at Trouville in June 1918.

Discharged to Etaples, in August 1918 he was sent to the Yorks and Lancs Regiment, with another new number as often happened to men returning from hospital. Within days he was back in the "Field" but less than a week later was admitted to a Field Hospital with diarrhoea, being transferred to a hospital at St. Pol on 24 September. He was well enough by the twenty-seventh to rejoin his unit.

Three weeks later he was again wounded and died on 14 October 1918.

In November, Ben's widow, Beatrice, wrote a poignant letter to the War Office for full particulars of his "wounds and death and burial" as she had lost "one of the best that ever trod the earth". We don't know if she ever received a reply; she was, however, informed in November 1919 that she would receive a "separation allowance" of 12/6d.

Ben's possessions, returned in April 1919, included "letters, photos, 2 pipes, a religious book ... [and] a metal watch (broken) ..."

Ben is remembered in St. Stephen's church and on the family stone in the graveyard of the Methodist Church on East Street.

Beatrice never re-married and died in the mid 1960s.

Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922

The following extract is from Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922 (2014) by J. Margaret Stansfield:

DODSON, BEN. Private. No 57800. 1/5th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment. Born Cross Lane, Marsh, 10.4.1886. Son of Ann Dodson, 4 Cross Cottages, Marsh. Attended Holy Trinity Church of England School, Huddersfield. Employed as a firer. Husband of Beatrice Dodson, 162 New Hey Road, Oakes. Enlisted 28.1.1917. Wounded 13.10.1918. Died of wounds, 14.10.1918, aged 32. Buried QUEANT COMMUNAL CEMETERY BRITISH EXTENSION. Grave location:- Row E, Grave 3.
ROH:- St. Stephen's Church, Lindley.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Links

Notes and References

  1. Ernest had married Lily Iredale in January 1906 &mbdash; Ben had been a witness.