Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Remembering a Veteran: Hughie Dodd, AIF, Tunneler and Outstanding Diarist

Hughie  (middle) Touring the Front with His Mates

Born at Broken Hill, New South Wales, on 14 April 1894, Edward Gilmore (Hughie) Dodd was the second child of Jabez Edward Dodd and Florence Wilson (née Johnston). Hughie came to the Western Australian goldfields as a young boy of four years, where he lived at Coolgardie and later in 1899 at Brown Hill. He attended Brown Hill School and later the Kalgoorlie School of Mines, where he qualified as a fitter and turner, leaving formal education aged 14. When the family moved to North Perth, Hughie completed his apprenticeship as an engineer with Hoskins’ Foundry at Murray Street, Perth in 1914.

Hughie enlisted in Perth on 4 January 1916 at the age of 21 years and 8 months after serving in the 84th infantry (a local militia reserve). On 30 March 1916 he was appointed to the No. 6 Tunnelling Compay with the rank of "sapper" and was promoted to sergeant on 2 May 1916. He embarked from Australia on 1 June 1916 when this diary commences. It was transcribed verbatim by his grandson, Keith Hugh Dodd, and the original has been donated by the family to the Army Museum of Western Australia.

Hughie married his sweetheart, Lam (Alma Whiskin) in 1921 and they had two children, Alan and Joy. Alma’s orphaned niece, Lil Whiskin, also became part of their family, and all the children served their country during World War II. Hughie’s military records show repeated hospitalisations for treatment of trench fever, then tonsillitis. He was gassed in France and suffered the effects for the rest of his life.

Damage from a Messines Mine Blown 7 June 1917 Documented by Hughie

After the war, Hughie was employed by the Metropolitan Water Supply as Engineer-in-Charge of the Fremantle branch. He was a logical man, thinking through any problems. Foremen and construction workers treated him with respect and affection, bringing him news of work and gifts, when he was incapacitated. A kind, gentle person, Hughie was the hub of the Whiskin and Dodd families. He had a dry, quiet sense of humour and a terrific general knowledge.

Hughie died aged 63 on 27 November 1957 at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood. His ashes were interred at the foot of the Memorial Wall in the Western Australian Garden of Remembrance in Smyth Road, Nedlands. A bronze plaque was erected on wall 9, row F.

His well-detailed and photo-supplemented diary describes Hughie’s activities at the front line maintaining and repairing pumps and electrical equipment for Australian tunneling units on the Western Front. Access the diary here:

1 comment:

  1. Having had an interest in the Tunnellers of the NZEF, I took a look at Hughie's diary and was shocked to read the following:

    5 August 1917
    This evening about twenty past nine, someone fired a shot across the square and Jack Tighe went across to see who it was. It panned out to be a regular Roughie called Jock Hall. He pulled a revolver out and put it to Tighe's breast and shot him. This Hall has told the OC to take him out and shoot him, as he didn't care what happened. I don't think he will shoot any more men as he will be well looked after now. What I can't make out of it, he wanted to get a Sergeant no matter who it was.

    September 5
    This chap’s got seven years by Court Martial.

    Hughie wrote so casually about the shooting, it was not clear if Jack Tighe was killed, although a point blank shot to the chest certainly implied it would have been a fatal shot. The sentence of a mere seven years also made me doubt death was the outcome. I looked for a TIGHE, AIF, died August 1917, no result. I looked at four men in the AIF, all John Tighe by name, no results. Went back to CWGC and searched without specifying AIF.

    Tragically, Sergeant John TIGHE, #86262, of the Royal Engineers, 10th Tunnelling Company, was killed 5 August 1917, aged 25 years. He was the son of Michael and Maria Tighe, of 39, Lyndhurst Rd., Burnley, who also lost another son, James Tighe in the war.

    James, #155926, a Lance Corporal, was also with the 170th Tunnellers. His death had occurred less than two weeks earlier on 25 July 1917. He was 22 years old.

    The brothers are buried in two different cemeteries, both places that come up frequently in Hughie's diary, Noeux-les-Mines and Bethune.

    April 17
    Fritz has started to shell Noeux-les-Mines again today, he's always at this game now. Gibson has been shifted off my job and sent to Bethune on motorcycle.

    A really tragic story within a story which is even sadder on discovering more. Maria, from Ireland, was only 17 when she married Michael Tighe, also Irish. By 1911 only nine of their 13 children (all born in Lancashire, England), were still living, Maria was still only 40 years old. John & James were the eldest sons. There were three younger brothers Patrick, Daniel, Michael, and Joseph. The younger two were still under the age of ten when the war began in 1914. Patrick was about 16 and hopefully never enlisted.