54019 Rifleman Harold Percy Dodson – New Zealand Rifle Brigade

Harold Percy Dodson was born in Nelson on the 16th December 1887, the youngest of four sons in a family of seven.

Harold and his siblings were raised from an early age by their mother Ellen Susan Dodson as their father, Henry, died in 1895 at the age of 45. The family lived in Cleveland Road, Nelson at ‘The Hills’ with the children all attending Central School.
As a 13 year old Harold became a school champion swimmer and held the title again in 1904. School swimming events were held at the Sunday Pool, on the Maitai River.[i]

By 1914 Harold was working in the Aporo area of Tasman as an orchardist. Harold was active in debating, golf and, with
the start of the war, in raising money to provide comforts to soldiers and sailors[ii]:    
Tobacco for our Soldiers and Sailors
“Evening Mail” Tobacco Fund
Remember: Every sixpence will purchase
30 cigarettes
and 2oz tobacco
and your name and address will be on every packet

On the 28th February 1917 Harold enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force
(NZEF). Harold’s medical record noted he was a single 28 year old, 5’ 6” tall with fair
complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.[iii] Harold volunteered to enter the 29th
Reinforcements  which were the reinforcements that his older brother had been
posted to as a 46227 Corporal Harry Reginald (Reg) Dodson.

Harold was employed as an orchardist on the Tasman Fruit Company property under
the supervision of Frederick Edgar Nottage. This was  the same orchard that his older
brother 6/3683 Private Sydney (Sid) Dodson, 12th (Nelson) Company, 2nd Battalion,
Canterbury Infantry Regiment worked in. [iv]

Harold Percy Dodson c1914 

Harold was with the 29th Reinforcements when on the 1st May 1917, the Nelson Evening Mail carried an article on their departure:

“A draft of the Nelson quota of the 29th Reinforcements left by the Alexander for Wellington last evening.
They were accorded a hearty send-off by the public. The men were played to the wharf by the 12th
Regimental Band, and the Fire Brigade accompanied the men  with torches as a compliment to two of their members who were leaving  . . . . . . ‘[v]

The name H.P. Dodson is listed along with 23 others.

On arrival at Trentham Harold was photographed by his older brother, Reg. 

Harold Comes to camp 

Private Dodson undertook basic training at both Trentham and Featherston. On the 27th June 1917 was posted to G Company, 27th Reinforcements, NZEF and sailed as a member of the 27th Reinforcements on the 16th July 1917 to France. In France on that same day, during the Battle of Messines, Harold’s older brother Sydney was reported as ‘Missing believed Killed.’ The report was later update to ‘Killed in Action.’[vi]

Private Dodson arrived in Liverpool, England and then travelled by train to Tidworth where on the 16th August 1917 he was transferred to A Comp-any, 5th Reserve Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade as 54019 Rifleman Harold Percy Dodson.

On the 23rd October 1917 Rifleman Dodson proceeded overseas to France arriving
in Estaples on the 26th October 1917. The stay in France was short lived as Rifleman
Dodson was admitted to the 24th General Hospital with influenza on the 29th October 1917 and two weeks  later evacuated to England and the No2 General Hospital at Walton-on-Thames.

Rifleman Dodson remained at Walton-on-Thames for two months before being well enough to be transferred to the NZ Convalescent Hospital finally reporting for duty at the Reserve Battalion on 25th February 1918 and remained in England until the end of the war.

Rifleman Dodson was able to visit his elder brother Reg who was in hospital at Brockenhurst in March 1918 prior to Reg being invalided back to New Zealand.

Rifleman Dodson finally left England, on 12th April 1919, one of 1500 troops returning to New Zealand. They arrived in New Zealand on the 30th May 1919 and were dispersed to their home areas. Rifleman Harold Percy Dodson returned to ‘The Hills’, Cleveland Road, Nelson for a reunion with his older brother and other siblings.
Harold Percy Dodson was discharged from the NZEF on the 28th June 1919 ‘on termination of his period of engagement’ returning to civilian life.

Harold moved back to the Tasman area the Nelson newspaper The Colonist noting in November 1919 that he was building a house in the area.
On the 21st July 1920 Harold married Doris Ethel Mcnab. Doris’s family farmed in Pangatotara, Motueka and her older brother Thomas Fowler McNab served in the NZRB during WW1.[vii]

Harold and Doris had three children, Noeleen Margarate, Agnes Ellen and Patricia Dodson.

Harold’s death on 29th January 1972 was reported to the Defence department by his wife.

Three brothers: Harry Reginald (Reg), Sydney (Sid) Reid and Harold Percy Dodson served in WW1 and fourth brother Herbert John Dodson was a dentist a reserved occupation.

Archway Archives New Zealand Military Records:
Paperspast online
Dodson papers
Online BDM

Harold Percy Dodson c1914 - Dodson family
Harold comes to camp 1917 - Dodson family

[i] Swimming, 2nd March 1904, Nelson Evening Mail
[ii] Tobacco for our Soldiers and Sailors, 29 September 1915 
[iii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Records: 54019 Rifleman Harold Percy Dodson
[iv] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Records: 6/3683 Private Sydney Reid Dodson
[v] 29th Reinforcements, 1st May 1917, Nelson Evening Mail 
[vi] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Records: 6/3683 Private Sydney Reid Dodson
[vii] Tasman News, 19th November 1919, The Colonist
Harold comes to camp 1917 Nelson's 29th Reinforcements