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Private Fred Hodson
5396 D Company 18th Battalion Canadian Infantry

Interview and 'Honours for Pte. Fred Hodson'
The Rushden Echo, 11th February1916, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rushden Man in the Mud - Praying or Cursing
Some Narrow Escapes - Meeting with Rushden Schoolmates

Private F. Hodson, 5396, D. Company, 18th Canadians, son of Mr. and Mrs. C. Hodson, of 14 Crabb-street, Rushden, is at home on leave after having been on the western front for five months.

Interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo” he said:

“I saw Sergt. Sheffield’s experiences in the ‘Rushden Echo’ and was very much interested in the account he gave, but I noticed that he said a good many fellows say their prayers out there who never think of saying them at home. If that is the case with his battalion they must be a different lot of chaps from ours, as if a chap can get through the mud and other things we have been through this winter without cursing he must be a saint. So far as I am concerned I have never heard so much cursing and swearing in my life as I have heard out there, and you can trust a Canadian to be emphatic. Of course, I am not guilty!

“The most prominent part I have played in the war up to the present is filling sand bags in the rain to the tune of the bullets from machine guns and rifles, and we have lost more men on fatigues and in going in and out of the trenches than we have in the trenches. I can give you my word that the trenches are the safest place. This winter the communication trenches have been flooded, and we have had to wade up to our waists in water in some places. We have a new communication trench now, I am glad to say. One Saturday morning, when I was passing through a communication trench, I sank up to my waist in mud. After about a quarter of an hour’s struggle I succeeded in getting one leg out, and went to put it on what I thought was solid ground, and I got in deeper than before. It took me half-an-hour of the hardest struggle I have ever had in my life to get out, and it made by pals laugh some, but ‘Ish ka bibble’ (comprez). This is Canadian slang for ‘I should worry.’ Another chap tried to pull me out but got in as bad a plight as I was.

“The worst experience I have had under shell fire was on Sept. 25th. We had orders to stand to in the reserve trenches at 4.30 a.m. When we had been in the trenches about half-an-hour the Germans began to shell us, and we were at that time about 300 yards from the German trenches. For half-an-hour the shells came over like rain, and I thought my number was up, but I am glad to say that none of my company was hit. How we escaped is nothing but a miracle, as afterwards pieces of shell were picked up from the parapet, most of them as big as your fist. Our Major collected over 200 such pieces. This was, of course, the day of the Loos battle, and we expected that the enemy might attempt a general attack.

“I had another narrow escape about the beginning of November, when the wet weather started. We were in brigade reserve at the time, about a mile behind the lines, and there were four of us in a dug-out, where we had only about a square yard of dry ground, the other part being about up to your knees in slush. Some other chaps in another dug-out nearby told us of a comfortable barn in a field close to us, so we made up our mind to flit. Two of us went across the fields, carrying our blankets right in view of the Germans. We hadn’t been in the barn more than two hours, and were just going to boil some eggs which we had got from a farm close to, when the Germans dropped a shell right in front of the door. How we escaped I don’t know, but we picked up our blankets and skipped, never mind about the eggs. I never ran so fast in my life, and as we ran across the field the Germans dropped about a dozen shells right close to us, and how we got through I don’t know, but we beat the Germans on that game all right.

“On another Saturday morning, we were on fatigue in the first line, building up dug-outs, when the Germans sent a rifle grenade over, and this fell in the mouth of a communication trench, about 20 yards from me, where a party of the 21st battalion was working. It was a miss, and one of the chaps waved his shovel signalling a miss. The Germans then sent three more right on top of them, killing four and wounding one.

“One night when on fatigue we were carrying the frames for dug-outs up to the first line, and we were going by road, as the communication trenches were impassable. The Germans must have been wise to it, as every two or three minutes they kept sweeping the road by machine guns, and they accounted for six of our men, two being killed and four wounded. When we came out of the trenches we returned a different way and when we got to the officer in charge of the party he told us that we were to leave the remainder of the kit where it was. The corporal came up and told us that one of our comrades was lying out there dead. Four of us volunteered to go out and fetch him in, and when we got to where he was we found about 20 more of our chaps lying in a ditch too scared to move. We put him on a stretcher and carried him back; passing through mud up to our knees, and this was the only time I ever ploughed through mud without grumbling. Our comrade whom we brought back had been killed by two machine gun bullets through the head.

“On October 6th we had a proper exciting time. Our artillery made a steady bombardment of the German trenches for about two hours. As a kind of bluff we threw over smoke bombs, but the wind seemed to change and blew the smoke back on to us, so that we couldn’t see two yards in front of us. We had the order to open up a rapid fire as we didn’t know whether the Germans would attempt an attack. Although they were pretty lively with their whiz-bangs they couldn’t get the range, as their shells were dropping about 50 yards behind us, but in one part of the line they found it, and four were killed and seven wounded.

“About the end of October the 7th Northants came to our part of the line. There were only two regiments between us and I would have loved to have got by the side of those chaps, as a lot of my old school-mates are amongst them. Their rest camp was only just behind ours, and one Sunday morning I went across to try and find them, but found they were in the trenches. However, I met one Rushden chap, ‘Toddles’ Gell, of Rushden, who is on sanitary police. I hadn’t seen him for about seven years, and he didn’t recognise me for a start, but I knew him. I said ‘Hello, Toddles,’ and as soon as he recognised me we had a good handshake.

“About a week after that the Northants were in the reserve, just at the back of us, and that was the opportunity I had been waiting for, I and another old Rushdenite went to hunt them up, and the first one I saw was Lce-Corpl. Frank Smith, of Rushden, one of my old school chums. I hadn’t seen him for about six years but he recognised me straight away. I met several other old school mates and we had a good talk about good old Rushden. This was the best three hours I have had since I was out there; it seemed just like being at home, you bet your sweet life it did. They are a fine lot of fellows. It was the day before Geo. Perkins, of Higham, was killed. We had passed them on the road that very day and had heard that five of the 7th Northants had got it, through a shell bursting, but we didn’t know who. I knew Geo. Perkins very well. I also met Ray Cooper, of Rushden, out there, and he must have been wounded the next time in the trenches, as he was all right when I saw him.

“In regard to the duration of the war, I think it is going to last much longer than most people think.”

Rushden Echo, 27th October 1916, transcribed by Gill Hollis

“Hell for 48 Hours”

We are pleased to report that Pte. Frederick William Hodson, of the Canadian Contingent, son of Mr. and Mrs. C. S. Hodson of 14, Crabb-street, Rushden, has been recommended for the Military Medal for exceptionally brave work on the battlefield as stretcher bearer.  Five of his comrades were also recommended at the same time, and it appears, according to his letter, that whilst they were carrying out their good work under heavy shell fire the Colonel was watching them the whole of the time, and subsequently Pte. Hodson and his comrades were paraded before the battalion and personally commended by the C.O. in front of the men.  To use Pte. Hodson’s own words “It was hell for 48 hours.”

A week after he gained the distinction, Pte. Hodson was wounded in the head, the shell which caused his injury also wounding one of his comrades.  This was on October 1st and he entered hospital at Boulogne three days later.  We are pleased to report that he is now convalescent, and at the Canadian Base in France.

Pte Hodson enlisted in Canada on the outbreak of war, having left Rushden for Canada four years ago last Rushden Feast.  He went to France twelve months last September, and was home on leave last February.  His wife, whom he met and married in Canada, is at the present time residing in Rushden with his parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Hodson have three sons serving – Pte. Fred Hodson, as mentioned above, Pte. L. Hodson, of the Durham Light Infantry, at present in France, and Sapper E. Hodson of the Royal Engineers, who is in Egypt.  The latter, who was formerly in the Beds Regt., was recommended for the D.C.M. for distinguished service at Neuve Chappelle on March 12th, 1915.  He was given a parchment which reads:- “The Bedfordshire Regt., 2nd Battalion. 8006 Pte. E. Hodson has been brought to the notice of the Officer Commanding the Battalion for his good work in the field at Neuve Chappelle on March 12th, 1915 when he was wounded trying to recapture a trench.  C.C. Onslow, Lieut Colonel Commanding 2nd Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regt.”

One other son, the late Pte. Ben Hodson, was killed at Loos on Sept. 27th, 1915. [Bert]

Pte. F. W. Hodson, prior to leaving for Canada, was a member of the Rushden Temperance Band, and has been playing with the regimental band since he has been at the front.  The news that he was to be recommended came as a complete surprise to Pte. F. W. Hodson, and in his letter he says that it left him speechless when his name was called out.

In civilian clothesThe Rushden Echo, 13th April 1917, transcribed by Kay Collins

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.

Fred in uniform
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.
Rushden Echo & Argus, 3rd August 1917, transcribed by Kay Collins

Military Medallist at Rushden - How Will the War End?
Local Man Enjoys a “Soldier’s Rest” - Hot Time in “Death Valley” - Nearly a “Blighty”
Bandsman Fred Hodson, M.M., of the —Canadian Infantry, son of Mr and Mrs C Hodson, of 14 Crabb-street, Rushden, has been spending ten days’ leave at home with his wife, daughter and parents, this being his first visit to England since he won the medal. Interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo” he gave some interesting particulars as to how he won his distinction.

“It was on September 15th and 16th last year,” he said, “during the fighting on the Somme that I and a comrade of mine, (Drummer Worsfold) obtained a Military Medal apiece for good work as stretcher bearers, and for remaining in the trenches until all the battalion was out. The Colonel told us we could go out if we chose, as the battalion was being relieved that night, but we elected to remain, and stayed there until our battalion had moved back. At that time the Germans were giving us hell, their artillery dropping shells into us thick and fast. By a miracle I got through without a wound, although I did receive a thump in the back from a piece of spent shrapnel, which inflicted no injury except one or two bruises.

We then moved about 15 miles to the rear of the line for ten days to enjoy a “soldier’s holiday,” which means being on the march all the time. We moved up again in reserve about September 25th, and had a fairly quiet time so long as we remained in the reserve line. It was on September 30th that we were sent up to the front line and I had to report at the dressing station. Whilst moving up, I had a pretty lively time, as the Germans were making a special mark of the place where the dressing station was situated. I spent the night in the dressing station, and the next morning four of us were ordered to proceed to an old German Dug-out just behind the front line, and this old Boche dug-out we were instructed to turn into an advanced dressing station. It had previously been a bomb store for the Germans, and was about 30 or 40 feet deep. The enemy had abandoned these stores in their rush to get out before our chaps reached them, and we found the old dug-out absolutely full of grenades and bombs.

“We had a pretty near squeak here. We were standing at the top, and a shell burst about six yards in front of us, but fortunately the force of the explosion was away from us. We beat it down the steps as fast as we could hop it, and had only been under cover two or three minutes when another shell fell right on the top of the entrance, and blew in the woodwork which covered it. However, we experienced little difficulty in getting out.

“At this point , which was known as ‘Death Valley’ we had many trips up to the front line to bring in the wounded, and as the Germans were on the high ground surrounding, they had good observation, and consequently we had a hot time. It was about 3p.m. on Sunday, October 1st, when my battalion had the orders to go ‘over the top.’ They went forward for about 500 yeards and dug themselves in, but did not see any Germans, although the German snipers were responsible for quite a few casualties on our side. It was about 7p.m. the same day that I got a wound that was nearly a ‘Blighty.’ There were about eight of us in a stretcher-aprty, and we were about 200 yards from the dressing station on our way to the front line. A shell came over and fell right amongst us, and I and another chap were wounded. A piece of the shell struck me on the back of the head, and knocked me silly for a minute or so, but as soon as I came round I clapped the field dressing on my head and hanging on to the strings I beat it as hard as I could pelt for the dressing station, with visions of ‘Blighty.’ The other poor chap, I am sorry to say, died later in the base hospital, from his wounds, whick were in the back.

“How the remainder of us escaped the Lord only knows. I was disappointed in regard to the ‘Blighty’ trip, as they only took me as far as Boulogne, and from the high ground where the hospital is built I could see ‘Blighty’ in the distance, so near yet so far. However, better luck next time. I was in the hospital two weeks, and when i found that I was not marked for ‘Blighty’ I wanted to try my luck again, and so I asked that I might be sent back to my battalion. On discharge from hospital I was sent to the base and there I did two weeks’ fatigue, after which I was sent up the line again to an entrenching battalion. I remained with them as a bugler for about two months; on returning to my old battalion, I joined the band and am now playing the cornet. This is a good job, not quite bombproof but next door to it. You can believe me it is better to play a tune behind the lines than to go up the lines and play another sort of to make Fritzy ‘dance.’ I have played all the tunes I want to play up there for over a year, and am quite prepared to give somebody else the chance now.

“Whilst I have been out there I have met many Rushden chaps, including Roger Helsdown, who formerly lived in Rushden. We often had a good talk about Rushden, and I used to lend him my ‘Rushden Echo’ whenever I received it.”

Asked for his opinion as to how long the war would last, Bandsman Hodson said that he could not see the end in sight. He did not think fighting would finish and the only manner in which the fighting might be brought to an end would be in his opinion, by all the belligerents coming to terms.

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