Name: Alfred John Carter Hodges
Occupation: Clerk, Motor Car Accounts Department, County Hall, Kingston-on-Thames
Birth Place: Esher, Surrey
Date of Death: Died of Wounds 23rd August 1918
Age: 22 years (born 16th August 1896)
Location: Area of the Albert-Bray road (Battle of Albert)
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Regiment: 1/20th (County of London) Battalion (Blackheath and Woolwich)
Alfred was the only son of John and Florence Hodges of “The Rest,” West End, Esher, Surrey. They kept a small grocery shop and post office just outside Glen Hurst Lodge. The had two children, Alfred and Annie.
Alfred was educated at St Saviour’s College, Ardingly, Haywards Heath.
In November 1915, he enlisted into the 15th (County of London) Battalion (Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles), and went to France with the battalion on 20th June 1916, and eventually became a Lance Corporal. He left the 15th Battalion in October 1916, and was then commissioned on 28th November 1917 into the 1/20th (County of London) Battalion (Blackheath and Woolwich).
When Alfred joined the 1/20th London Regiment in France is not recorded.
The battalion war diary for the month of August 1918 is missing so it is difficult to piece together exactly what happened to Alfred. In August 1918, the 47th (London) Division, to which the 1/20th London regiment belonged, was involved in the great offensives against the Germans – the ‘100 Days’ that led to the end of the war.
On the 22nd of August the battalion was involved in an attack on enemy trenches around the Albert-Bray road. Supported by tanks and cavalry, the battalion advanced, but smoke and darkness meant that they dug-in short of their objective. When morning came, the battalion was exposed to ‘heavy and accurate’ shellfire. Shelling continued throughout the day, making re-supply and reinforcement very difficult. The attack was not successful as had been hoped, and further attacks on subsequent days were necessary to achieve the objectives of the 22nd August.
It is during the advance on the 22nd that Alfred was killed. His commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel T. Oswell Bury wrote to the family on 27th August 1918, and provides details of Alfred’s death:
‘We have been kept much employed lately or I would have written to you before this to express on behalf of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the 20th Bt. London Rgt. Their very deep sympathy with you in the loss you have sustained by the death from wounds of your son, 2nd Lieut. J.B. Hodges (sic).
He was badly wounded whilst leading his Platoon in a successful attack in the early hours of Thursday the 22nd inst. And died later in the day. I am told that he was unconscious the whole time as that it will perhaps be of some little consolation to you to know that he cannot have suffered.
It is a great loss to the Battalion as your son was a type of officer difficult to replace nowadays, and we shall miss him very much indeed. He was leading his men forward very gallantly when he was hit, thoroughly maintaining the high reputation he held within the Battalion.
I am not permitted to inform you of the place of burial, but this will be communicated to you by the proper authorities in due course.’
Arnold D. Taylor, C.F. (Chaplain to the Forces) also wrote on 30th August 1918:
‘I had a long talk with your son the Sunday previous to the 22nd, when he was present at a Celebration of Holy Communion. He had been a regular Communicant ever since he came out to the Battalion. He is missed in the Regt., probably more by me than any other.
May his soul rest in peace. I cannot tell you where his body has been buried but no doubt you will be informed latter…’
Alfred’s batman, Private N. Adams (No. 645006), wrote to his parents on the 29th of August. Private Adams had lost a leg in the explosion that killed Alfred, and appears unaware of his death:
‘I have been wondering if you have heard anything from the War Office concerning your son, 2nd Lieut. A.J.C. Hodges, 20th London Regt. I will tell you all I know as I was the last one to be with him, but I am very sorry to say I could not help him in any way, as I was very severely wounded in both legs, and now have one amputated. Well, we moved forward to the attack on Thursday, 22.8.18 and of course being Mr Hodges’ batman, it was my duty to cling to him which I did. We moved forward when our barrage lifted and when we had caught it up again we knelt down and waited, and it was here that a shell burst about 2 feet in front of us and of course you know the consequences. I was unconscious for about 2 hours, and when I woke I found myself in a shell hole, but had no signes (sic) of Mr. Hodges. But of course I have not given up hopes by any means.
If the worse has really happened just to let you know if there is anything more you would care to know, and if possible I will tell you…’
Private Adams survived.
After his death, Alfred’s family pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of Alfred. Part of the process was to check the suitability of the family to receive the insurance payout. Referees were asked for their opinion. One referee describes Alfred’s family as ‘very steady and most respectable people in every way’.
Another, Lieutenant-Colonel F. Talbot of Glen Hurst Lodge, Esher, revealed a heart-breaking tragedy that came with Alfred’s death. He described how Alfred’s parents had lost their only daughter, Annie, ‘a year or two ago and now that the son has been killed they have no children.’ Alfred’s family eventually received around £100.
Alfred is buried at Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France; his inscription reads ‘Beati Mundo Corde’ (‘Blessed are the pure in heart’). He is also remembered in the Ardingly College Book of Remembrance.
He is entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
Surrey History Centre CC7/4/4 File 39
E.H. Maude (ed.), The 47th (London) Division 1914-1919, By Some Who Served with it in the Great War, (London, Amalgamated Press, 1922).
Supplement to the London Gazette, 18 December 1917. 13217 – https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30432/supplement/
Regimental War Diary – 1/20th (County of London) Battalion (Blackheath and Woolwich)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/
Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/