b. 09/11/1886 Ovingham, Northumberland. d. 15/11/1935 Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Frederick William Dobson (1886-1935) known as Billy, was born at Nafferton Farm, Ovingham, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland on 9th November 1886. The farm is now owned by Newcastle University. His father was Thomas Dobson, a groom and then later a machine man. His mother was Elizabeth nee Holt, a cook for the Reverend John Bee, Rector of Christ Church, Jarrow. They were married in the Gateshead area in 1885. Billy had three brothers and six sisters and was educated at Collingwood Junior School near Willington, North Shields.
Billy was employed as a painter’s apprentice until enlisting in the Coldstream Guards on 7th July 1906. He transferred to the Reserve on 7th July 1909 and was employed as an apprentice signwriter. By April 1911 he was a horsekeeper underground, boarding with the Brougham family in Hooker Gate, Rowlands Gill, County Durham. Billy Dobson married Rebecca Cutbell nee Dobson on 30th September 1911 in Gateshead. Despite the same surname, it is believed they were not related. They had two sons – Robert born on 30th May 1912 and Thomas born on 17th November 1913.
Billy was recalled on the outbreak of war on 6th August 1914 and arrived in France on 12th August. On 28th September 1914 at Chavonne, Aisne, France, Private Dobson twice volunteered to go out under heavy fire to bring in two wounded men. This undertaking involved crossing a good deal of open ground in full view of the enemy. Private Dobson, however, crawled out and found one of the men dead and the other wounded. He dressed the wounds and then crawled back, to return with a corporal and a stretcher, on to which they put the wounded man and then dragged him back to safety.
He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 28th November 1914. Although the recommendation was strongly supported by Lieutenant Colonel Peretia, commanding 2nd Coldstream Guards, and Brigade and Divisional commanders, the Corps commander, Douglas Haig, acknowledged Dobson’s bravery, but was not in favour of the VC for rescuing the wounded and recommended the DCM; the King however overruled Haig. He was gazetted on 9th December 1914, and was presented with his VC at Buckingham Palace by King George V on 3rd February 1915. He was also awarded the Russian Cross of the Order of St George 4th Class in August 1915.
Billy received a number of wounds during the war and was hospitalised at 3rd Southern General Hospital, High Street, Oxford. He was discharged from the Army on 1st July 1917, being medically unfit for further service. His wounds affected him for the rest of his life.
He worked down the mines for a while and later became a cinema commissionaire, but considered the VC a hindrance when seeking employment as his colleagues believed he received special treatment. Sadly, his war wounds meant he spent long spells in hospital, suffering constant pain. Billy died at 418 Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne on 13th November 1935. The causes of death were congestion of the lungs, myocardial degeneration and syphilitic aortitis. He was buried in Ryton & Crawcrook Cemetery, County Durham. The grave was unmarked until the Newcastle branch of the Coldstream Guards Association dedicated a headstone on 15th March 1986.
In addition to the VC and Russian Order of St George, he received the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf. His VC, 1914 Star and Order of St George were found in a Newcastle pawnbroker’s shop in 1936; the family donated them to the Regiment. His British War Medal and Victory Medal were donated to the Regiment in August 1988 by Mrs Florence Dobson, wife of Billy’s eldest son Robert, who died earlier that year. The medals are now held together in the Coldstream Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: COLDSTREAM GUARDS RHQ, LONDON.
RYTON & CRAWCROOK CEMETERY, COUNTY DURHAM. SECTION A, PLOT 234
Frederick Dobson's memorial stone unveiled in Ovingham in Sept 2014.
Frederick Dobson's medals at the Coldstream Guards RHQ (Picture - Thomas Stewart).
High Spen Primary School