This is the third of a 4-part series of the analysis of articles relating to Private Frederick Hodson, who served with the 18th Battalion. Special thanks to Annette Fulford (@avidgenie) and Lizbet Tobin for assistance with this article.
From the previous stories we can get a sense of Hodson. He is a dutiful son and soldier who has now earned a Military Medal in the horror of the Somme. He had informed his family that he was wounded by shrapnel in the prior news article and this wound would keep him out of action from October 1, 1916 to his return to the Battalion on January 6, 1917, at the Lens Sector, having moved out of the Somme on October 5, 1916.
His journey to this point in time would start on October 23, 1914, a Friday. The war, or Great War, had been going on since August and the First Canadian Contingent was forming and training at Quebec City and had recently embarked for England. While, in England the Daily Telegraph had a picture showing the Indian Force’s “First Appearance” and related a surprisingly small amount of war news, while hi-lighting the progress of the Queens Appeal, the Prince of Wales Fund, and Princess Mary’s Fund in raising money for the troops. An advertisement extolled the value of T.P.’s Journal of Great Deeds of the Great War, “available every Thursday.” What prompted Hodson to enlist is unknown, but the time had come for him to do so and he may have had other things on his mind – a Miss Elizabeth Swift.
On that day Frederick Hodson enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He was single at the time of enlistment but within 2-months, almost to the day, he would be married. Standing 5’10½” he was taller by 3 inches than the average member of the CEF. His trade as a shoemaker helped draw him to the Galt/Preston/Hespeler area as it was one of the centres of shoe production in Canada at this time. His prospective bride was an Elizabeth Swift, of Hespeler, Ontario. Perhaps he met Miss Swift at his place of work or during his commute from his home to the shoe factory he worked at?
Their marriage sheds some light on the relationship of Hodson to his home town. His best man and witness, Harry Rice was four-years older than Hodson, but they shared the same birthplace, Rushden, England, and a similar profession as Rice was a bootmaker. Unlike Hodson, Rice was married and his wife, Ada, also served as an attendant and witness to Hodson’s and Swift’s wedding. Rice would later move to Toronto and he enlisted with the CEF, making it to England but returning to Canada in 1917 and discharged to the medical issues.
Whatever the circumstances of his relationship to Miss Swift at the time of enlistment they would be married, and she would follow him to the war.
Above are documents from Hodson’s service record. The card on the left is the “embarkation card” filled out just prior to the soldier leaving for England, in this case April, 1915. It shows Elizabeth Hodson residing at Preston, Ontario. The document on the left is taken from the Assigned Pay record and shows that as of April 1, 1915 the assigned pay to Mrs. Hodson would be sent to the family home in Rushden.
It was not unusual for wives of soldiers to come to the British Isles to be close to their husbands. Some wives were recent immigrants to Canada and had family back at the home country. Several wives to officers of the 18th Battalion, such as Edna Nelson, the wife of George Whitford Nelson, moved to England. She wrote extensively of her experiences in her letters giving an account from a decidedly middle-class Canadian perspective.
Hodson and his bride were representative of the working-class. As a shoemaker his expectations and resources where less of that of an established gentleman farmer, such as Nelson, but he and his new bride felt it important enough that she follow her soldier to England, and she joined his family at their home in Rushden.
What is curious is there is no mention in the clipping of the Canadian action at Vimy which had just occurred three days prior at Vimy Ridge. As the Canadian Corps was fully engaged the Hodson family and his wife would have had a very good idea that he had been involved. It appears that Private Hodson had forwarded his medal for safe-keeping with is wife and she would certainly have been proud to be in possession of this reminder of his valour. As attack on Vimy Ridge was part of a larger operation at Arras involving 14 Imperial divisions (BEF/CEF/ANZAC/Newfoundland/SA) the English papers would have been full of news about this offensive, particularly because of its spectacular successes, particularly those of the Canadian Corps (4 Divisions) at Vimy Ridge.
He stayed in active duty until his next leave to England, effective July 27, 1917 where he would return and the Rushden Echo would share, in detail, more items regarding his military service.
This brief article illustrates an aspect of the social life of a soldier. Hodson’s affiliation with his town and heritage is represented by his trade, a shoemaker, as his father was and to which Rushden owed much of its industry to was shoe and boot manufacture. This connection is further illustrated by his choice of Rice as his best man. He too is from Rushden and is a bootmaker. They both emigrated to Canada and arrived and lived in the same area and being from Rushden may have been acquaintances back home or their similar hometown established a friendship in Canada. It also shows that the importance of family and the need to be closely connected geographically precipitated the newly married couple to organize to have the new Mrs. Hodson travel to England and stay with Private Hodson’s family.
It would be interesting to know the numbers of spouses who came to the British Isles to be closer to their loved ones and the impact that had on the family unit during the military service of the soldiers.
Rushden Soldiers’ Medal – Bravery in the Field
Some months ago we had pleasure in reporting that Pte. Fred Hodson, of the 18th Canadian Infantry, formerly of the Rushden Temperance Band, and son of Mr and Mrs C Hodson, of 14, Crabb-street, Rushden, had been recommended for conspicuous gallantry in the field.
Tangible recognition of the soldier’s bravery has now come to hand, as his wife, who is residing with his parents, has received a silver medal inscribed “For bravery in the field, 53986, Pte. F. Hodson, 18th Canadian Infantry.”
Pte Hodson has been on the Western front for about a year and nine months, and was wounded on October 1st 1916, i.e., a week after he had accomplished the gallant deed which won him distinction.
This is the second military distinction which has been won by members of the Hodson family, as another son, Sapper formerly Pte. Ernest Hodson received a parchment certificate for valuable work in the field at Neuve Chappelle, when he was wounded trying to recapture a trench on March 14th, 1915.
The Rushden Echo, 13th April 1917, transcribed by Kay Collins