18 Reginald George Dobbie
Reginald George Dobbie was a mechanical engineer , 20 years of age and living in Marrickville , Sydney . His parents were George Sloane Dobbie and his mother Angelina De Silva. Angelina was born in Greymouth New Zealand. Reginald also had two younger brothers Leslie, Stanley and two younger sisters Alma and Kathleen.
He was serving with the 29th Infantry ‘C’ Company prior to enlisting and 3 days after enlisting he was promoted to NCO lance Corporal, 5 days later promoted to 2nd Corporal and on the 25th January 1915 promoted to Corporal.
Reg Dobbie was noted as serving right up to the evacuation serving the entire time at Gallipoli without any interruption due to ill-health or leave.
In September the following year he was recommended for a Meritorious Service Medal for his excellent continuous work since the landing day at Gallipoli. RCDIG1068467–30- Citation
Reg Dobbie would continue to distinguish himself well beyond his Gallipoli days.
In 1917 on the Western Front, Reginald Dobbie was now 22 years old and now Sergeant Dobbie, and was once again putting himself in harm’s way and inspiring his men in the trenches of France.
To the new reinforcements Reg Dobbie was everything they had heard about back home prior to volunteering , a Gallipoli “dawn lander”, he was also what they referred to as a ”low number”, number 18 , not too many of them left, and he wore the brass “A” on his shoulder , immediate recognition of his participation at Gallipoli.
Reg was someone they immediately respected and someone who continually set the perfect example of leadership through his actions.
Reg at the Western Front
At only 22 years of age he must have shown remarkable maturity and courage. His actions during the attack at Polygon Wood and two weeks later at Becelaere Ridge were well documented in his citations.
20th/21st. September 1917
“During the attack upon the vicinity of Polygon Wood on the 20th/21st. September 1917 Sergeant Dobbie was the senior N.C.O of a section of Sappers engaged upon making communications in the immediate rear of the front line. Throughout the day and in spite of fatigue, sniping and enemy shelling he passed to and fro along the line of working men encouraging and cheering them onto greater efforts by his own tireless personality.
Several times during the day the works were shelled by large guns and upon each occasion he visited the different parties along the trench encouraging the men to continue work and setting a splendid example of coolness to those under him.
It was owing to his conduct on these occasions that the men stuck to their job and enabled the work to be completed.
Although the sniping was continuous throughout the day he assisted to mark out the work and placed the men upon their tasks. About the time that the trench was completed the enemy placed a heavy barrage along it and attempted to counter attack along the front line. During the whole bombardment which lasted almost three hours and despite the fact that the air was thick with heavy smoke and flying earth Sergeant DOBBIE moved from party to party giving advice to his junior N.C.O’s and encouragement to the men.”
Lieut. Colonel C.R.E 1st Australian Division
Only a few weeks after the attack at Polygon Wood Reg Dobbie and the 1st FCE are throwing themselves into the front line effort yet again. On the 4th of October the company helped to capture Passchendale Ridge. They followed the second wave of the Infantry and when the ridge was captured the company proceeded to consolidate the position by forming a strong point.
At 1.30 in the afternoon a German aeroplane came over at a low altitude and had spied their position and turned back to inform the German batteries. The German batteries then opened fire and sent a salve into the company’s position on the ridge, a barrage of heavy shelling that lasted for the remainder of the day and ultimately at great cost to the “original” sappers and many others.
The following account…….
“During the attack upon BECELAERE Ridge on the 4th October 1917, Sergeant Dobbie was senior NCO of a party engaged on the construction of a strong point in the vicinity of the front line.
he gave great assistance in locating the site of the strong point, constantly moving about in the open under heavy shell fire and harassed at the same time by snipers. He then returned repeatedly through the enemy barrage and conducted the party in small groups back to the spot chosen.
Shortly after the work was commenced the enemy secured several direct hits on the trench inflicting casualties. Each time Sergeant Dobbie went to the assistance of the wounded dressing their wounds and digging out those who were buried in spite of heavy shelling.
During the whole day the position was constantly shelled and the men were considerably shaken, but Sergeant Dobbie by moving about and cheering the men enabled the work to be successfully carried out.
When the party was withdrawn, despite the fact that he had endured the exceptionally trying day, he voluntarily stayed behind and assisted the stragglers and fatigued men of the party to safety.” – Citation 9th October 1917 AWM
This “stunt” was a day the “originals” would suffer their greatest losses since Gallipoli.
Three “original” sappers were killed on this day , 32 James Claude Nicholls,119 William “Billy” Pitt, and 190 Jack Raymond Hollingworth.
It would also be a day remembered for their gallantry and six “originals” received the following honours.
66 Norman Masters – MM – Military Medal
99 John Jackson – MM- Military Medal
108 Walter Stallard MM – Military Medal
119 William George Pitt – MM – Military Medal
153 Phillip Charmichael – MM – Military Medal
167 Albert Currie – MM – Military Medal
Reginald was recommended for his DCM on 3 different citations and was awarded on his 2nd citation on the 3rd October 1917. His superiors were determined to see that Reginald was awarded for his continued gallant efforts.
For his conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty Reg Dobbie was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M) on the 31/10/1917
Shortly after these “Stunts” Reg Dobbie was transferred to the 1st Aust. Pioneer Batallion and promoted to Lieutenant.
Reg is Wounded
On the 2nd August 1918, the remarkable Reginald Dobbie DCM was wounded in action. His relentless “leading by example “ approach on the front lines was finally met with a machine gun wound to his left thigh. The wound was considered mild, but for Reg, he was now out of action. He was hospitalised and his fighting days were finally over.
Reg was an original in so many ways. From the start he did nothing in small measure and left an Anzac legacy that is worthy of celebration. Reg was no exception to many of the young men who suffered from V.D. during the war, however his was service was quite exceptional.
He had fought at Gallipoli from day one through to the evacuation without a single interruption to his service. He was a major force on the front lines most famous battles, at Gallipoli, Polygon Wood, and Ypres and following three recommendations from his Commanding Officers, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Reg would have been bitterly disappointed that he could not continue the fight, but looking back on what he had achieved in four years, I am sure he must have been quietly satisfied with his work. Ironically his wounding may have been good news for his family back home, as it was likely their son would finally be returning home soon. His father however was not phased by his son’s wounding.
“I am in receipt of your communication of the 10th instant intimating my son – Lieut.R.G Dobbie M.M D.C.M has been wounded. It is hoped that the wound is of such a nature as to enable him to resume duties at an early date.” – Letter from George Sloane Dobbie to Officer- in -Charge Base records – Melbourne. AWM
Reg Returns Home
Reg returned home to Australia in February 1919 and shortly after he married Vera Wheatley McBride in Marrickville Sydney.
After his official discharge he was working as a traveller.
Vera and Reg were living at 274 Wardell Rd, Dulwich Hill, Sydney and had two children, Milton George Dobbie and Betty Norma Dobbie who would both later marry.
However it is a very sad end to the story for our heroic Reginald George Dobbie DCM as he died from encephalitis only a few years after his return to Sydney in 1921, he was just 26 years old. Reg must have contracted the infection from his war wounds which lay dormant for a few years. He spent 9 days in hospital, but never recovered and he died on the 9th September 1921. Reginald was buried at Rookwood cemetery, Sydney. on the 12th September 1921.
On the 1st anniversary of Reginald’s death Vera had inserted “In Memorium” in the Sydney Morning Herald the following tribute to her hero and ours, Reginald Dobbie DCM.
“In loving memory of my dear husband, who died September 9, 1921 aged 26 years.
Gone and forgotten by some you may be,
you shall never be forgotten by me.”
Vera W Dobbie.
Vera was obviously deeply in love with Reg and their young and happy life together with their young children was cut short so dramatically and much too early. Vera also signalling the fact that our Anzacs were already being forgotten.
Fortunately six years later in 1927 Vera remarried a Policeman, John McGrath and would live on together until her death in 1945.
I believe there are direct descendants of Reg Living in New South Wales….. see some footnotes, if so we would love to hear from you.
1. Some records indicate Reginald was awarded The M.M , however this was identified as a clerical error as late as 1925.
2. Reg Dobbie’s son Milton married Edna Mavis Hunt in Granville, NSW in 1941 and they had a daughter – Carol Anne Dobbie.
3. Reg’s sister Alma Dobbie became a Nun.
Story Copyright © Vance Kelly 2015
Sources: Courtesy AWM, NNA, NLA