17 May 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 21 - Military

Week 21 (May 21-27) – Military: This week, the United States will be observing Memorial Day. Do you have any military ancestors? Were any ancestors affected by the military or by war?

A number of times in this challenge I've written about ancestors who were in the military:
My Mother, My Father, My Grandfather, My Great Grandfather and a number of other different relatives - most of whom came home from their service.

Today however, I thought I'd share the sad story of Matthew Dobson, my grandmother's brother.

I'm not sure which of the 3 sons in uniform in this photo is Matthew, but it is likely the last time the whole family was together.

Matthew was a Sapper for the Durham (Fortress) Royal Engineers - with service number 1479. In July 1915 he signed paperwork that agreed in the event of a National Emergency he would serve in any place outside the United Kingdom.

On July 27th, 1915 at Usworth Colliery he was certified as being a "Very Good" Engineman by Robert Turnbull an Engineer at the Colliery ("Very Good" was the highest level of certification available on the Certificate of Trade Proficiency document

According to the forums on 1914-1918 invisionzone website, the Durham (Fortress) Royal Engineers were originally based at Jarrow as part of the North East Coast Defences. Converted to a Field Company and in September 1915 attached to the Regular Army 4th Infantry Division which was Part of Hunter-Weston's VIII Corps in July 1916.
They were later Renamed the 526th Field Company.
There is also more information about the unit here: Wikipedia - 1st_Durham_Engineers

Matthew, his service number changing to 470973, joined the 1/1st Durham Field Company on 19/12/1915 and within a week is listed as being sent to Hospital - apparently for a Hernia. He was back with his unit by 2/1/1916.

He had another period in hospital in 24/10/1917 though the reason is not listed. He was back with his unit on 4/11/1917.

He was also granted 2 periods of leave during his service 14/1/1917 - 24/1/1917 and 9/2/18 - 23/2/18.

He was wounded on 24/03/1918 during Operation Michael in the East Arras area of France suffering gun shot wounds to his back and scalp which eventually turned into Septic Spinal Meningitis.

Australians would better know this battle in Arras as one leading to the Battles of Dernancourt and Villers-Bretonneux.

Image from http://www.anzacsinfrance.com/1918/

He was originally treated at the 7 Stationary Hospital at Boulogne but ultimately transferred to the Keighley War Hospital in Yorkshire England

The records of his condition lead to some very uncomfortable reading - large open wounds, herpes, incontinence, delirium, paralysis of the legs

He died on 02/05/1918 and is buried at Our Lady Immaculate Roman Catholic Church Washington England and remembered on the Usworth Memorial

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