Joseph Dodge was born in the summer of 1883, and was one of twelve children, including eleven boys. His parents were David and Eliza Dodge, who raised their growing family in Stoke-sub-Hamdon, a few miles to the eats of Yeovil, Somerset.
David was a mason and stone sawyer, but his children went into other roles when they left school; Joseph found work as an agricultural labourer.
In October 1903, Joseph married Elizabeth Ann Case – better known as Annie – who came from just over the Dorset border in the village of Corscombe. Setting up home in Yeovil itself, the couple went on to have two children – both boys – Walter and Norman.
War was coming to Europe, and Joseph was intent on doing his bit. Full service details are not available, but the documents that exist confirm that he enlisted as a Private in the Wiltshire Regiment. Initially assigned to the 1/4th Battalion (which served in Egypt), he transferred to the 2/4th Battalion (which served in India).
Sadly, there is no documentation to give service dates, it is impossible to establish when or if Joseph actually serve in these locations. India seems likely, however, as he later transferred to the 1st Garrison Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment, which was based in Lucknow.
Private Dodge survived the war and came back to England, but seems to have contracted pneumonia on the journey home. Admitted to hospital in Liverpool, the condition sadly got the better of him. He passed away on 16th February 1919, at the age of 35 years old.
Joseph’s body was brought back to the county of his birth; he was laid to rest in Yeovil Cemetery.
Joseph came from a very patriotic family, and local newspapers early in the war highlighted that many of the Stoke-dub-Hamdon brothers had enlisted to serve King and Country.
At the time of the article, six had enlisted – Thomas, Arthur and Percy (all in the Somerset Light Infantry), Albert (West Somerset Yeomanry), Evan (Royal Navy) and David (Canadian Infantry).
Corporal David Dodge seems definitely to have distinguished himself. Having emigrated to Canada before the war, he returned to Europe when conflict broke out. An article in the Western Chronicle reported that he had “been awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery on the field under heavy fire.” [Western Chronicle: Friday 15th November 1918]
Amazingly, of the seven brothers who fought in the conflict, only Joseph perished.
An earlier series of articles tells the tragic story of another of Joseph’s siblings. Henry Dodge (known as William) had moved to Senghenydd, to the north of Cardiff, in 1910; mining work was plentiful there and he and a number of his fellow villagers had sought money from the black gold.
On the 14th October 1913, and explosion happened in the mine and that and the resulting fire and subsequent poisonous gas outpouring killed more than 430 miners. Initially reported missing, William was later confirmed dead; he was just twenty years old and left a widow and child.