Frederick Doodson was born in 1895, the fourth and youngest son of Edward and Matilda Doodson of Sydney. Known as “Curley”, he grew up in Pyrmont and was educated at Ultimo Public School.
Frederick Doodson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force shortly after war broke out in August 1914. His family, who had moved to Lidcombe, were not well off, and his income as a soldier was a valuable addition to household finances. Doodson left Australia with the 1st Battalion, and wrote home regularly after arriving in Egypt. He was shortly followed by his brother Walter, who arrived with reinforcements to the 3rd Battalion. The brothers were able to meet in Egypt, and had their photograph taken together to send home.
While in training, Doodson tried to set up a number of boxing matches, but they were cancelled because his opponent was unwell. He wrote with disappointment, “by the way things are going I will not get a fight at all.” Doodson did not like Egypt’s climate, writing, “it is crook weather here; it is very hot in the day and terribly cold at about midnight,” and described his life as a soldier as having “plenty of work and very little leave, and very crook grub.”
On 21 March 1915, Private Doodson wrote to his mother to say, “There are lots of rumours about that we are leaving for England at any minute, but if we do go away it will not be for the Old Country. I think that the next place we go to will be the Dardanelles, as the allied fleets are bombarding the forts there.” He ended his letter with several crosses that he wrote were “for the kiddies”.
In the early hours of 25 April 1915 the first battalions of the Australian Imperial Force began landing on Gallipoli. The 1st Battalion, including Private Frederick Doodson, formed part of the second and third waves of the landing, the men arriving on the beach to find a confusion of wounded men and reinforcements, before being sent to the heights to help the men fighting to establish the front line. At some point during this day, Private Doodson was wounded, and after being taken to the beach, was evacuated on the hospital ship Gascon. He died of his wounds shortly before the ship docked in Egypt.
The newspapers described after the loss of their first son: “the parents are much cut up … the mother particularly so.” But the Doodson family would lose even more during the First World War. Corporal Walter Doodson was badly wounded at Lone Pine, and eventually invalided back to Australia and discharged as unfit for further service. Another brother, Charles, would die of his wounds serving as a gunner on the Western Front in 1917.