Sergeant Francis Wilfred Ferguson Dodds enlisted with the 12th Field Ambulance in March 1916 and served overseas for three years. He returned to Canada in June 1919 and was awarded the Military Medal.
Wilfred was the oldest son of James Dodds and Margaret Jane Ferguson of Winnipeg, Manitoba. James was born in the Oshawa area in Ontario and Margaret in the nearby town of Blackstock. They both moved to Manitoba and at the time of the 1891 census they were living in the district of Lisgar, RM of Springfield. They were married in December 1892 in the RM of Springfield, which included the town of Dugald. Wilfred was born in Dugald on 20 September 1893. He was followed by twins Elizabeth Violet Ethel and James Arthur Stanley (1894) and a daughter Margaret Olive Lilian (1897). Sadly, baby James died at age four months and he's buried in Sunnyside Cemetery, also known as Moose Nose Cemetery, in Oakbank, Manitoba.
By 1901 James and his family had moved to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. He was working in a sawmill and his father Francis Dodds was staying with the family. A few years later James' uncle, also named Francis Dodds, became the principal at Cecilia Jeffrey School. The residential school was located on Shoal Lake, southwest of Kenora, and Francis was there for about ten years. By 1911 James and Margaret had moved to Winnipeg and he was employed as a carpenter and house builder. Their daughter Violet married John Tait in September 1915 in Winnipeg.
Wilfred enlisted in Winnipeg on 2 March 1916. His cousin Gilbert Charles Gordon Dodds enlisted the same day and his brother-in-law John Tait enlisted about three months later. They all signed up with the 12th Field Ambulance in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. Wilfred was 22 years old, his occupation was pharmacist and next of kin was his father James. His unit sailed from Montreal on 23 June on the SS Scandinavian, arriving at Liverpool on 3 July. Wilfred was promoted to Sergeant on arrival and his unit spent about seven weeks in the UK. They were sent to France on 12 August and became part of the 4th Canadian Division. Field ambulances operated advanced and main dressing stations, which were located just behind the front lines. They provided short term medical care, collecting casualties, treating them and evacuating them to the clearing stations and hospitals as needed. They also operated rest stations and provided stretcher bearers for moving the wounded.
The 4th Division was at the Battle of the Somme in the fall of 1916 and in April 1917 the Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge. Wilfred had a two-week leave of absence in July 1917 and the Canadians took part in the Battle of Hill 70 in August followed by the Battle of Passchendaele (October-November). In March 1918 Wilfred had leave in the UK and the final period of the war started in August with the offensive at Amiens. The Canadians were heavily involved in operations in those last three months. Wilfred's brother-in-law, Sergeant John Tait, died of wounds on 12 September 1918 and he's buried at Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension in the Somme, France.
The Armistice ended hostilities in November 1918 but the 12th Field Ambulance stayed in France and Belgium for another six months, returning to the UK on 7 May 1919. Wilfred embarked for Canada at the end of the month, sailing with his cousin Staff Sergeant Gilbert Dodds on the SS Adriatic and arriving at Halifax on 7 June. They were discharged on 12 June 1919 in Winnipeg. They were both awarded the Military Medal.
When the 1921 census was taken Wilfred was living at home in Winnipeg and working as a druggist. He was married on 6 August 1927 at the Knox Presbyterian Church in Stonewall. His wife, Hazel Margaret Dixon, was born in Stonewall in 1901, the oldest child of William Holmes Dixon and Margaret McMillan. She became a teacher and taught in one-room schools in the early 1920s before moving to Winnipeg.
Wilfred and Hazel had two children, James and Beverley. Wilfred had a long career as a pharmacist, with his business located in downtown Winnipeg. He was also a member of the 12th Field Ambulance Association and he served as president for several years in the 1930s. He was active in the army reserves and attained the rank of Major. His father died in Winnipeg in 1936 and his mother in 1938. They are buried at Sunnyside Cemetery in Oakbank. Wilfred passed away at Deer Lodge Hospital on 17 September 1955. His funeral was held three days later, on what would have been his 62nd birthday. Hazel died in Winnipeg on 14 March 1990, at age 88. They are both buried at Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens along with their son James (1936-2001).
By Kenora Great War Project