Rev Prebendary Francis Vere Hodge

31 October 1919 - 15 December 2013


Shoulder wings


2 Para

Rev Prebendary Francis Vere Hodge

As a wartime Forward Observation Officer with the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, Prebendary Francis Vere Hodge, who has died aged 94 (Dec 2013), pioneered a new role for the Royal Artillery.

On the night of 13/14 July 1943 with two others ( RN Leading Telegraphist Alex Boomer and Lance Bombardier Ted Eley ), he parachuted into Sicily and, in support of an infantry attack, called for fire from Royal Navy ships offshore. Such liaison had not been attempted before.

The operation was to secure the Primosole Bridge, linking Catania with Lentini and Syracuse; Captain Vere Hodge’s laboriously encoded situation reports led to “extremely accurate and effective fire on the advancing enemy”. Aged just 23, he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry.


The fall of Catania was vital for the final Allied advance on Messina and the capture of Sicily, and enemy firepower was sustained and severe. After being dropped at dusk near the Primosole Bridge, Captain Vere Hodge reconnoitred likely observation posts. At dawn he called for, directed and corrected offshore naval fire to knock out enemy positions. The task lasted for 20 hours. The official citation described him as having “complete contempt for his personal safety” and he “so skilfully directed the fire of the six-inch guns from a cruiser that heavy casualties were inflicted on the attacking infantry”.



Francis Vere Hodge

In June 1944, Vere Hodge was Mentioned in Despatches after dropping with the 7th Parachute Battalion near what became known as Pegasus Bridge. For a month, he and his party engaged numerous targets in support of the Paras. This included one from the grounds of Bénouville Chateau when a battleship, HMS Ramilles, fired on a strongpoint just 200 yards away. Both operations in which he was involved became a Parachute Regiment Battle Honour.

After the war, Francis Vere Hodge entered the church and was ordained in 1948, thus becoming the seventh successive generation of his family to be appointed a Church of England parson. Following a curacy at Battle, his first living was Iping and Linch, Sussex. In 1958 he moved to Kingswood, Surrey.

In 1965 he returned to his roots in Somerset, where he was appointed vicar to the Moorlinch and Greinton group of villages; and in 1979 he became the first Bath and Wells Diocesan Rural Affairs chaplain. This involved administering the church’s help and advice to local communities in agriculture, horticulture, animal welfare and country matters. In addition, he was Rural Dean of Glastonbury Jurisdiction from 1975 to 1979, when he revised the contentious method of calculating each parish’s share of the ‘Deanery Quota’ – the sum payable to the diocese for its running costs. He was also resident honorary chaplain to the Royal Bath and West Show.


  Francis Vere Hodge

Primarily a country parson, Francis Vere Hodge saw his role as caring not only for his human parishioners, but also the animals, trees, plants and the soil itself. He was one of the first to hold services of blessing for animals and, later, for all creation. In 1982 – the 800th anniversary year of Wells Cathedral – he memorably organised the first Service for the Whole Creation which was held inside the cathedral and on its extensive green in front of the magnificent west portico.

Upon retirement in 1984, he maintained his active interest in ecclesiastical affairs and, as chairman of the trustees of Glastonbury Abbey, led the team which organised the financing and building of its visitor centre. From 1984 to 1988 he was chaplain to the Yeovil and District branch of the Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies. In 1979 he was appointed Prebendary of Wells Cathedral – an honorary title awarded in recognition of his long and exemplary service to the diocese.

The Rev Prebendary Francis Vere Hodge MC, born 31 October 1919, died 15 December 2013.
Married Eleanor Connor (deceased 2012) in 1942. He leaves two sons and a daughter.

Francis Vere Hodge Vere's 90th birthday celebrations in 2009.

Should you have any need to contact the author via email ... The above is credited to Peter Denton

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