Service Number 290041
Battalion 266 Railway Construction Company
Regiment Royal Engineers
Fred Hudson was born on the 17th October 1879 in Thorner, the son of William Hudson and his wife Sarah. Fred was one of ten children. Fred grew up in Thorner, at 3 Sandhill with his parents, but in 1891 the family had moved to Collingham. William was a platelayer on the railway. By 1901, when Fred was 22, he was working as a garden labourer at Barrowby Grange in Kearby with Netherby. Fred eventually followed his father into working for the railways and, like his father, got a job as a platelayer for the North Eastern Railway company.
In 1911, Fred was working as a plate layer and lodging at Ledston, Castleford with Thomas and Annie Turner, and only a few days after census day 1911, on the 22nd April 1911, Fred married Minna Westoby at the Weslyan Methodist Chapel, Castleford. Fred and Minna had two children while living in Castleford, Stanley, born 4th July 1912, and Kenneth, born 2nd January 1916.
Before that, in 1915 Fred had enlisted for service, but had been placed in the reserve. He gave his address as 4, Station Cottages, Collingham. On the 25th June 1917, he attested at Longmoor Camp and his military service started when he was mobilised on the 2nd July 1917 and was posted to 266 Railway Construction Company of the Royal Engineers.
Mechanisation and transport played vital roles in the Great War, with vast quantities of supplies, food, ammunition and men needing to be transported to and from the front. At the outset of war, the Army had just two Railway Construction Companies to build and maintain the rail transport system, but it was soon seen that these units would not suffice for probable requirements and the Director of Railway Transport was instructed to organise additional Railway Construction units. In October 1914, the Railway Executive Committee in England formed a Sub- Committee for Recruiting. Very large numbers of the employees of British railway companies were then volunteering for military service and the men for RE Railway units were selected from them. By the end of 1917, out of 180,000 enlistments from English railway companies, about 40,000 were serving in RE Railway units. The HQ of the regular railway troops before the war was at Longmoor in Hampshire and the Special Reserve Companies came there annually for training using the specialised Woolmer Instructional Military Railway. During the war, Longmoor, and subsequently part of Bordon, became the centre for all RE railway and road personnel and at one time also for Inland Water Transport personnel. From the outbreak of the war until the armistice, nearly 1,700 officers and 66,000 other ranks were sent overseas from this centre.
The unit that Fred joined, 266 Railway Construction Company, Royal Engineers, was formed on the 14th September 1917, and was bound for service in Egypt and on that day, Fred and the rest of the men embarked in Southampton and sailed to Alexandria, where they disembarked on the 27th September.
Service in Egypt lacked the dangers of the Western Front, but illness and disease often caused severe problems for the men serving there. Fred fell ill on the 24th November 1917 and was admitted to hospital but recovered and rejoined his unit on the 9th December 1917. However Fred's time in hospital was not over. He was admitted again on the 30th July 1918 and on the 16th August his record shows he was suffering from pyrexia. He returned to duty on the 14th September, but fell ill again and was admitted with pyrexia on the 28th September 1918. Fred's service record was badly damaged and parts are difficult to read - on the 8th October 1918 he moved somewhere - it is hard to read but looks like "GBS Kamtara". Fred was again sent back to his unit on the 26th November, but by the 10th February 1919 he was in 33 C hospital in Haifa and was listed as 'dangerously ill with cholecystitis'. It was not until the 21st Febrauary 1919 that Fred was pronounced out of danger, but he stayed in 33 Hospital until he was transferred to 44 Stationary Hospital on the 1st March 1919, and then to 19 General Hospital in Alexandria on the 4th, still suffering from cholecptitis. The illness was severe enough for him to be invalided to the UK and he sailed on hospital ship Tahita on the 13th April 1919. Finally on the 4th June 1919, Fred was transferred to Class Z reserve and was discharged from the Army.
After the war, Fred Hudson returned to the Wetherby area and in 1939, at the time of the 1939 registration, Fred and Minna were living at Fernlea, The Avenue, Tadcaster.
First World War Medal Index Cards. The National Archives (WO372).
First World War Medal Index Rolls. The National Archives (WO329).
First World War British Army Service Records. The National Archives (WO363).
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