John Hodge and David Hodge

John Hodge and David Hodge
John (born 1887) and David (born 1890) were brothers born into a family of four elder sisters and two other brothers. Their father, John, was a farm labourer and cowman who worked for Herbert Northrop, cattle dealer. Their mother, Sarah (née Day), was originally from Over. The family home in Edwards Yard, just off West Street, was of just four rooms.

All four brothers fought in the War, the family suffering a heavy toll. Besides the deaths of John and David, Frank and William were reported wounded in the Hunts Post of 14 Dec 1917. Both of them survived the War.

John and Sarah had a strong marriage, the image below showing them at the celebration of their 60th year of marriage in 1935.

John Hodge
In 1901 John worked as an errand boy, aged 13yrs, still living at home. By 1911 he was employed as a railway signal lighter and was boarding with William Healey, a fellow railway employee, and family at Barnetby le Wold, near Grimsby.

In early 1915 John enlisted with the 6th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. Formed at the start of the War, after more than a year's training the Battalion went from Liverpool to Gallipoli in July 1915. John embarked to Gallipoli to join his battalion on 16 October 1915 and would have arrived by early November. His comrades had been in the thick of fighting and suffered heavy casualties.

John found himself in gruelling conditions. Cramped and unsanitary, they were surrounded by unburied corpses. The stench was awful. Food was poor quality. With no fresh water locally, supplies had to be transported inland. Constant shelling and machine gun fire raised the noise level to such a pitch it was difficult to sleep. Dysentery and lice sapped the resolve of the men. In late November severe thunderstorms turned into blizzards. Almost 300 men died and there were 16,000 cases of frostbite and exposure.

Gallipoli had proved a disaster. The British and Commonwealth Forces were a spent force by late 1915. Although major battles were in the past, local skirmishes still took place and the Turkish forces continued to keep British soldiers pinned down by artillery and rifle fire. John was injured, sustaining wounds in his head and legs after barely a month in Gallipoli. He was taken aboard the hospital ship 'Masala'.

John died of his wounds on Sunday 5 December 1915, aged 28yrs, and has no known grave. It is almost certain he was buried at sea, a common and necessary practice of hospital ships. He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli. His death was reported in the Hunts Post of 17 Dec 1915.

The irony of Gallipoli was that the withdrawal of all Commonwealth troops was the only successful operation. Over a period of three weeks from early December 1915 80,000 men were evacuated with few casualties and little knowledge by the Turkish forces. After 10 months of fighting and 56,000 Commonwealth soldiers' deaths, little had been achieved.

Do you have a photograph of John or any additional information? If so, please get in touch via the make contact page.

David Hodge
In 1911 David was still living with his parents. They had moved some time before to 2 Oliver Road, St Ives. David worked as a boot repairer for Bryant and Bryant. Both David and his brother William were members of the local Territorials, their prowess in a shooting competition reported in the Hunts Post of 18 April 1913.

David enlisted at Huntingdon initially with the Middlesex Regiment, and was transferred to the 7th Battalion, Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. He most probably landed in France in 1915. During 1916 he took part in several engagements on the Western Front, all part of the Battle of the Somme. Three million men fought and one million were killed or injured, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

The Battle of Ancre was the final phase of the Battle of the Somme, fought from 13 to 18 November 1916. Originally planned for mid October, bad weather had caused repeated postponement. By November the objectives had been reduced to capturing Beaucourt, pushing the German front line back at most two miles.

Because of strong enemy opposition, the attack was planned in three phases. The first was to advance 800 yards, capturing three lines of trenches. The second was to capture the German second line. Finally, the British forces would capture the main objective, the town of Beaucourt.

Battle of Ancre 1916
Conditions during the Battle of Ancre; mud, ice, snow and devastation
Despite heavy casualties, the objectives were generally achieved by the 14 November, and this encouraged Gough to launch a  more ambitious offensive. On 18 November an attack commenced which descended into chaos amid sleet, snow and clawing mud.

David's Battalion was ordered to attack Desire Trench. Overnight the British soldiers moved into position, ready for the start of operations planned for 6.00am on Saturday 18 November. Snow fell, followed by rain. Extremely cold temperatures made conditions treacherous.

At zero hour it was still dark as soldiers crossed no-man's land, meeting heavy rifle and machine gun fire on both flanks. The attackers stalled just short of their objective. Strong enemy opposition resulted in heavy casualties. As daylight drew in, confusion reigned resulting in stalemate. Total casualties for David's regiment were 10 killed, 77 wounded and 177 missing. There's a link to a detailed account of the attack on Desire Trench from the Battalion War Diary, under 'Source materials'.

David was one of those recorded as missing. The Hunts Post reported this on 19 Jan 1917. The family would have longed for news that he was a prisoner of war, the normal procedure being for a POW to complete and send a first capture postcard to his family. After months of uncertainty his remains were identified and official confirmation of his death was received, as reported by the Hunts Post of 6 Jul 1917. David was 27yrs of age at his death and is buried at Grandcourt Road Cemetery, Somme, France.

Do you have a photograph of John or any additional information? If so, please get in touch via the make contact page.

Source materials
Click any of the links below to view original source materials.

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