46227 Harry Reginald  Dodson – 12th Company, 2nd Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment

Harry Reginald (Reg) Dodson was born in Nelson on the 20st December 1882, second child and eldest son of Henry and Ellen Susan Dodson. Harry was part of the family of seven, four boys and three girls.

Reg and his siblings were raised from an early age by their mother as their father, Henry, died in 1895 at the age of 45.
The family lived in Cleveland Road, Nelson at ‘The Hill’ with the children attending Central School.

As a young man Reg joined the company established by his grandfather Joseph Reid Dodson, J R Dodson & Son Brewery and Aerated Water Works. Reg worked alongside his uncle Richard Duncan.

In March 1916 Reg made his first attempt to enlist in the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces (NZEF). It was noted in papers in the South Island and Wellington[i]:

                ‘Mr H R Dodson the well-known brewer, of Nelson, has enlisted.’

However Reg did not pass the medical and received instead an ‘Acknowledgement
of offer for services’ dated 8th March 1916:[ii]

 ‘but it was found that he did not come up to the present standard for Active Service.
The disability however, is only temporary being due to ‘not sufficient chest expansion’
which, if remedied, will probably fit the volunteer for Active Service. ‘

Reg enlisted a second time and again received an ‘Acknowledgement of offer for
services.’ This one dated 1st May 1916 noted that:[iii]  

 ‘but it was found that he did not come up to the present standard for Active Service.
The disability however, is only temporary being due to in one case poor physique,
which, if remedied, will probably fit the volunteer for Active Service. ‘

Reg enlisted again and in December 1916 and was required to attend another
medical where he was passed as fit. The medical noted the 33 year old was 5’ 2” tall,
a single man employed as a brewer and that he had dark complexion, dark hair and
grey eyes. The medical also noted that he had asthma from the age of twenty but he
had excellent teeth. [iv]

46227 Private Harry Reginald Dodson  1917

46227 Private Harry Reginald Dodson was enlisted in the 26th Reinforcements on the 4th January 1917 and left Nelson with the other men of the Nelson quota on the 6th February 1917. This was the last Nelson District quota made up of volunteers.  

Departure of the 26th Reinforcements 

In Trentham Private Dodson was posted to the 29th Reinforcements as 46227 Corporal Dodson. The 29th Reinforcements NCO’s then underwent training in army procedures prior to the recruitment of the other ranks. This training was over the six months and Corporal Dodson was allow leave to travel back to Nelson as on 29th May
1917 the Nelson Evening Mail carried the following[v]

While in camp Corporal Dodson was able to see his
younger brother Harold Percy Dodson who had
also enlisted  as 54019 Rifleman Dodson, NZRB.[vi] 

In Trentham, in late July 1917, Corporal Dodson was
notified that a younger brother, 6/3683 Private
Sydney Reid Dodson, 12th (Nelson) Company,
2nd Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment (CIR)
was posted as ‘missing believed killed’ during the
Battle of Messines.[vii]
On 15th August 1917 Corporal Dodson along with the 171 men that made up C Company, 29th Reinforcements, CIR left New Zealand for service on the Western Front.  They were shipped to Glasgow, Scotland and then travelled by train to
Sling Camp where in October 1917 Corporal Dodson was allocated to the 4th Reserve Battalion of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment.  Reg joined other reinforcements and reverted to the rank of Lance Corporal  prior to his posting to France.

Lance Corporal Dodson arrived in France in November 1917 and before being posted to his regiment reverted, at his own request, to Private.  On the 19th December 1917 he joined the 12th (Nelson) Company, 1st Battalion, CIR. The Canterbury Infantry Regiment at the time was in the Polygon Wood facing the Polderhoek Chateau.[viii]

Private Dodson wrote a diary covering the period he was at the front which on most days noted they were shelled including on the second day a simple note “In the trenches on gas and S.O.G. guard. Capt Charters in charge. Shrap strike on tin hat. “

Reg wrote that Christmas Day was cold with snow and the Germans shelled the trenches with gas and high explosives (HE). The practice was to move replacement troops up to the trenches for a number of days then move back to the rear for rest before once again moving forward. Some entries are underlined like the 10th
January 1918.

“Front line Snipers bullet just missed, heavy snow – out in “no man’s land’ wiring –
saw flock of doves, no peace sign.”

Private Dodson kitted out for No Man's Land with gas mask and wire cutters

The cold and wet conditions started to impact on Private Dodson with diary entries noting pains in arms and legs, not feeling too good and of the horrible taste of shell smoke.

On the 20th January 1918 Private Dodson, along with 30 others was sent to Ottawa Camp for special training. However on arrival he was sent to the 2nd Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) where his asthma was assessed and he was then sent to Estaples, a 8 hour journey in Queen Harry’s Ambulance train which was ‘beautiful’.[ix]

In Estaples Private Dodson was admitted on 24th January 1918,   to the 7th Canadian Hospital where a “nice Dr says possible gas – can taste shell smoke.” On 31st January 1918, following assessment, Private Dodson  was evacuated to
Calais, then to England arriving on 1st February 1918 to Ward 13, New Zealand General Hospital, Brockenhurst with
asthma and bronchitis.

Private Dodson remained at Brockenhurst  for two months; the stay was lengthened by a bout of Trench Fever. On the
14th March 1918 he was classified as unfit for service by a medical board.  Finally on the 6th April 1918 was then taken by ambulance train to Aronmouth where he was loaded onto HMNZHS Marama for the return to New Zealand.  It was while the HMNZHS Marama was enroute between Pitcairn Island and New Zealand that Reg and Kobe’s first child Kathryn Nanette was born on the 7th May 1918.

The Marama arrived in Auckland on the 15th May 1918 and Private Dodson travelled to Nelson where on 21st June 1918
he attended a final medical board where he was given privilege leave up to the  6th August  1918 at which time he was discharged as no longer physically fit for war service (asthma).

Reg Dodson returned to work at J R Dodson & Company.  Reg and Kobe purchase a family home in 39 Manuka Street, Nelson where two more children, sons; David Reid Blecynden and Ashford Blechynden Dodson were born.

In World War Two, when Reg’s nephews the Duncan boys were overseas on war service, Reg was the managing director
of JR Dodson & Son Ltd. He died on the 13th July 1945 and is buried in the Nelson Cemetery.  

Richard Duncan married Mary Ann Blackmore Dodson, eldest daughter of Joseph Reid Dodson.
6/3683 Private Sydney (Sid) Reid Dodson was, following a October 1917 Court of Enquiry, declared Killed in Action on the 14th July 1917.
Kathleen Blechynden was born in Kobe, Japan and was known by her family as Kobe. Reg called her affectionately Ko in his diary and letters.

Dodson family papers
Paperspast Online
Official History of the Canterbury Regiment (WW1)
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Records: Corporal Harry Reginald Dodson

46227 Corporal Harry Reginald Dodson  1917
Postcard departure of the 26th – Dodson family
Wiring detail in France – Dodson family
Background Hut 146, 29th Reinforcements NCO’s                ‘  

[i] Personal Matters, 13 March 1916, Dominion
[ii] Acknowledgement of offer of Services, March 1916, Dodson archives
[iii] Acknowledgement of offer of Services, May 1916, Dodson archives
[iv] Archway Archives New Aealnd Military Records: 46227 Corporal Harry Reginald Dodson
[v] Marriages, 29 May 1917, Nelson Evening Mail
[vi] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Records: 54019 Rifleman Harold Percy Dodson
[vii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Records: 6/3683 Private Sydney Reid Dodson
[viii] Official History of the Canterbury Regiment p221
[ix] Private Reg Dodson personal diary 
1917  Hut 146  29th Reinforcements NCO's