Popular Sedgemoor reverend dies at age 94

Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News: Photo: submitted Photo: submitted

A RESPECTED reverend who served many communities throughout Sedgemoor has died at the age of 94.

The Rev Prebendary Francis Vere Hodge, who spent part of his youth in the Huntspill area and was married in Berrow in 1942, died at his home in Bishop's Lydeard, near Taunton, on December 15.

He entered the church after the Second World War and was ordained in 1948, becoming the seventh successive generation of his family to be appointed a Church of England parson.

Vere Hodge was also rector of Greinton and vicar of Moorlinch, Stawell and Sutton Mallet from 1965 to 1979.

While at Moorlinch and Greinton, he also became the first Bath and Wells Diocesan Rural Affairs chaplain, which involved administering the church's help to local communities in agriculture, horticulture, animal welfare and country matters.

A statement released on behalf of the Vere Hodge family said: “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.”

As well as his work with the church, Vere Hodge had a distinguished military career in the Second World War.

As a Forward Observation Officer with the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, he pioneered a new role for the Royal Artillery.

On the night of 13/14 July 1943, with two others, 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 effective fire on the advancing enemy. Aged just 23, he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry.

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”.

Both operations in which he was involved became a Parachute Regiment Battle Honour.

Upon retirement in 1984, he maintained his active interest in church affairs. In addition to his trusteeship at Glastonbury Abbey, he wrote a number of books and pamphlets on the subjects of nature and religion.

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