Harry Willie Edward Dodd

Harry William Edward Dodd was my first cousin three times removed.  We are both descended from Francis Joseph Langton and Sarah Bishop who were my third great grandparents, and Harry’s Grandparents. As a refresher since it has been a while since I wrote about this branch of my family, the Langtons arrived in Upper Canada (later Ontario) sometime before 1825, and the Bishops sometime before 1847 which was the year Sarah married Francis in Newmarket.  After settlings in Peterborough, ON, Francis and Sarah had 11 children, one of which being Harry’s mother, Sarah Ellen, and another being my 2nd Great Grandmother, Ada May Langton.

Sarah Ellen married John J. Dodd, a barber, in 1875 in Peterborough at the age of 22. Two years later, Harry was born, and he grew up in Northumberland county, just south of Peterborough. He grew up here, and began work in the tannery in Cobourg, which was a significant industry for the town. In 1897, he married Mary Eliza Raycroft, and the two started their family in Hastings, Ontario, still in Northumberland county. By the time the war began in 1914, Harry and Mary had eight children, one son, and seven daughters.

Harry enlisted in the 139th overseas battalion of the CEF in January of 1916 when he was 38 years old. After training, he sailed for England in September of 1916, and on arrival was transferred to the 36th Battalion, then again to the Royal Canadian Regiment before being sent to France in late December of 1916. The conditions he arrived to were atrocious. For the day he arrived with the regiment, the war diary states:

Very heavy rainfall. Deep dug-outs leaking, trenches in very bad condition, sides caving in, flooding C.T.s and Front Line. This is due to taking over unrevetted trenches with no Draining System. This work should have been done in the summer months.

Harry was with them for 15 months in France, which happened to coincide with 15 of the most active months for the RCR.  During this time, they were actively involved at Flers-Courcelette, Vimy, Hill 70, Ypres–some of the most intense battles of the war. In early 1918, Harry was sent back to England due to some generalized complaints about pain and nervousness.  He claimed he couldn’t march more than 1 mile, or walk more than 3.  His medical board report states that he has some generalized discomfort, and that “patient appears nervous.”  He was diagnosed with slight “disordered action of the heart.”  I am not a medical professional, but I can’t help but wonder if what Harry was suffering from was panic attacks.

Harry served the rest of the war in England with a service corps team.  He was again reviewed by the medical board before discharge, and was again recorded as being nervous with an inability to stand still, but nothing that indicated his military service would interfere with his ability to work upon return home. He returned to Canada in March of 1919. In the 1921 census, he is listed as living in Hastings with his family and working as an “agent.”

That 1921 census entry makes me sad.  It is so normal.  I know a census is not meant to me a narrative history of a person, but it still feels mean somehow that it doesn’t take into account the three year separation from his family, the experiences he had while away, and the impact it may have had over the two years since he was home. It embodies the expectation that things would return to normal.  He, I suppose was considered one of the lucky ones given that there were so many other young men from southern Ontario who didn’t return at all. Harry passed away in 1951 at the age of 74.

There is only one more entry left in this project, the 52nd David, my Great Grandfather Joseph James Foster.  I am taking some time with that post, and it may or may not appear next weekend, I may decide to post closer to the centenary of armistice the following weekend.  Until then!

Leave a Reply