Hodgkinson speaks of his father, Private JW Hodgkinson MM,
2nd Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, by Catherine Goodier, Editor Blind
As we mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme I interviewed
of Blind Veterans UK whose family were involved in the Somme
Hodgkinson from Manchester joined Blind Veterans UK in 2008
and I spent an
afternoon with him and his wife Ruby, as Jim told me about his
father and his
father's time in WWI when he Served with 2nd Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.
Although his father never spoke of his experiences during World
Jim knows of his father's bravery from the War Diary of Lieut
Bn Lancashire Fusiliers. We have reproduced Lieut Hawkins's
war diary from
October 12th 1916 below.
October 12th 1916 was the day that Private Jim (Ginger) Hodgkinson
Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers saved the life of Lieut Hawkins
during the Battle
of the Somme. For that outstanding act of bravery he was awarded
Medal. We begin Lieut Hawkins's account:
At 2.30am I started of to the assembly position with my Co.
consisted of C.S.M. Laverick of D.C.M.,
my runner Ginger Hodgkinson, my
servant Hargreaves and the Co. Signallers and Orderlies.
At about 6am the preliminary bombardment began and lasted all
day until Zero
Hour. It was very slow and very regular. A few shots fell short
into 'D' Co., but
nothing very exciting happened at frst. (The rest of the diary
is written by hour
and minutes as the events of the day become somewhat crowded).
12.15pm: Several Huns running and crawling in No Man's Land
machine gun. Had a few shots at them.
12.30pm: Twelve Huns came into our line and surrendered. Some
Things assume a rosy aspect and point to a fairly easy show.
1.0pm: Watches sent to Bn. H.Q. for synchronising.
1:30pm: Watch sent back and following additional orders received
Zero hour 2.5pm. The Duke to attack the length of trench occupied
by the Hun
between A Co. and then at 2.25pm the rest of the Division to
Accordingly we sat down and waited for Zero hour.
2pm: Bombardment increased.
2.3pm: Hun plane few
straight down own line about 300 feet up, may have
seen trenches crowded with men. None of our planes in sight.
2.5pm: Fiendish Row.
Zero hour. Heavy enemy barrage on 10th Brigade
Machine Gun Barrage. Dukes attacking on our right but can't
2.10pm: Shrapnel shell
on top of us. Laverick hit on steel
helmet and stunned.
2.15pm: Awful noise
impossible to make oneself heard. Several men got excited
and went over the top on their own. Keen as hell to go.
2.20pm: Shell landed
on CO. H.Q. all Co. signallers and runners knocked out
except Ginger. Hargreaves badly knocked.
2.25pm: Johny Greaves
and 5 Platoon of followed by the rest of the Co. Johny
shot through the lung fve yards in front of our parapet. Enemy
barrage pretty unhealthy. Our own barrage which should have
waited for us has
gone on with the Dukes and 25 mins. in front of us.
Ginger and I follow
the Co. over. Run like hares and fnd ourselves well away in
front of the Co.
2.50pm: Fifty percent
of Co. already down. Whole Bde appears to be held up.
L/Cpl. Fenton one of my Lewis Gunners has got his gun going
in a shell hole on
my left. Awful din can hardly hear it yelled at Sgt. Manin to
take the 1st wave
on. He's lying just behind me. Ginger says he's dead. Sgt. Mann
on my right of
7 platoon also dead. Most of the men appear to be dead. Shout
at the rest and
get up to take them on. Find myself sitting on the ground facing
our own line
with a bally great hole in my thigh, doesn't hurt much but bleeding
Ginger also hit in the wrist. Awful din still. Most of the Co.
now out. Ginger ties
my leg up and I put my tie round my leg as a tourniquet. Fortesque
on my right
about fve yards still alive. He had a bullet through his steel
hat and another had
broken the skin on his nose. Funny how one noticed these things.
Yell at him to come
over to me. Show him my leg and tell him to carry on. He
gets into a shell hole to listen while I tell him what to do.
Shot through the heart
while I'm talking to him, Addison also wounded and crawling
back to our lines.
That all the Ofcers and most of the N.C.O.'s can't see anything
of Bolton and S
Pl. Start crawling on back, back to our own lines. Bump. "What's
"Dead man Sir." Dam. Turns over and drag along on
my stomach. Ginger helps
me along. About 75 yards to go, leg still bleeding fast, and
my trousers have
been cut of me. Feel rather naked. Beastly uncomfortable also
Bloody row still. Make another efort and roll over our parapet
on to Laverick
who has recovered and is just coming up. Ginger dives of for
Awful shindy still. Feeling rotten. Streatcher bearer arrives.
Takes my Field
Dressing of. Hole in my thigh. I can put my fst into it. Full
of mud too. They tie
me up and cart me of to a small hole somewhere near in original
trench. Laverick goes of to collect
the Co. Only 12 men left out of a hundred.
2.40pm: Johny Greaves
carried along and put in another small hole. Badly hit in
lung. Can't get away till dark.
3pm: Got an awful pain.
Laverick has collected the remnants
of the Co. in the
front line. Himself Sgt. Bolton and a dozen men. Attack an absolute
5pm: Feeling rotten.
Keep losing consciousness. Beard a Subaltern in the Dukes
passes. Asks how they did. He says he is the only Ofcer left.
Nine Ofcers killed,
six wounded. Ask him if he is going to Bn. H.Q. He is. Will
he tell Brain how
things are, and that Johny and I are here. He will. Must have
6pm: Still in this
beastly hole. Johny very quiet. 10% reserves come up.
11pm: Stretcher Bearers
come up and Johny carried of.
Another stretcher party
come along and take me away. Beastly journey down.
Essex and King's Own all coming up. Stretcher bearers have to
get into the
open. After a long time we get to the road. John Carr and L/Cpl
Owen meet us
with a stretcher. Take me over and send S.B's back for someone
else. John and
Owen start of with me, to Bn. H.Q. Drop me of stretcher twice,
patting my head and telling me I am O.K. Reach Bn. H.Q. Brain
and Blencs come
out and give me a drink. Willis sends me a message to say, I'll
soon be in town.
Cheers me up a bit. Brain tells me our casualties.
Poor Old Daddy Mansell
killed. Robin, Greaves, Kirkland, Addison and others
wounded. Bolton missing. Watkins and Sammy Howarth only two
through. Whole show dud. The doctor decides to send me on at
once. I am
lying on a stretcher in a trench near Batallion H.Q. Damned
shell bursts near,
and covers me with mud. Don't seem to mind a bit. Seem apathetic
getting hit. Am sent of to a Dressing Station near Givenchy
and thus sever
connection with the Bn. again after 'months' spell.
Although Lieut Hawkins
wrote that he severed all connections with the Bn. he
did not sever connections with Ginger. The two would stay in
touch for the
remainder of their lives. Here Jim Hodgkinson junior speaks
of his father.
Jim said: "My
father was a very quiet man. He was a good father and after
war he joined the railway where he worked hard to look after
his family. He
would occasionally go to the music hall and I would go with
him and to the pub
too as he liked a pint and game of cards, but never to excess.
We'd talk, but he
never talked about himself, he always wanted to talk about me,
or anyone else
but him. I wish I'd asked him more questions about his time
in WWI, but I doubt
he'd have answered them.
"I know that he
was wounded twice. As Lieut Hawkins writes he was shot in
the wrist during the Battle of the Somme. That was when he was
Military Medal for saving the life of Lieut Hawkins. I know
my father was gassed
in France as I have a photograph of him in his blues when he
in the South of England. Again I only know about that because
once a year
he would go into hospital for treatment. As the railway only
gave him one
week of leave a year he would go in for treatment during his
holiday. He never
complained. He just got on with it.
"My father was
a Foreman/Timekeeper at Central station in Manchester. Each
day he would pin his ribbons on the lapel of his railway jacket
before he walked
the two miles from our home in Monsall to Central station. His
nicknamed him Rainbow, but my father didn't take any notice
of them and
he wore his ribbons as they told the story of his time during
WWI and he was
proud to have fought for his country in the Great War for Civilisation.
the Second World War he joined the Home Guard as so many of
the First World
War men did. He would wear his ribbons on his uniform and on
Sunday he would proudly wear his medals to the Service of Remembrance.
"Although my father
didn't speak of the war he told me one thing: that on one
day in 1916 three telegrams landed on my grandmother's doormat.
her that her youngest son John, who was only 16, had been lost
presumed drowned. He was Serving onboard HMS Hampshire that
Field Marshal Lord Kitchener on a diplomatic mission from Scapa
voyage should have fnished in Russia, but it is believed HMS
a mine laid by a German submarine. Another telegraph told her
that my father
had been wounded, there was no further information, just that
he had been
wounded. The third telegram was to inform her that her eldest
son Alec had
been captured and made a POW. Like my father Alec did return
home at the
end of the war, although unlike my father he was never the same
as he sufered
from what would be recognised today as Post Traumatic Stress
my uncle John did not return home, his fnal resting place is
"My father's association with Lieut Hawkins lasted for
the rest of his life as they
kept in touch and he would send my father money and gifts. My
expect these gifts, although they were of course welcome. My
happy that they remained friends throughout their lives, but
never forgot what my father had done on that day of October
12th 1916. When
I was a young boy a box was delivered for my father. It was
from Egypt where
Hawkins, was posted. I opened it up and it was full of hay and
I fshed around
inside until I found a large £5 note, which was equivalent
to two weeks wages.
There was also a bronze plate that Ruby and I still have today,
it's engraved with
hieroglyphics that show the story of Egypt from the birth of
"The young Lieut Hawkins with whom my father had Served
rose to become
Brigadier V F S Hawkins, DSO, MC.
"Today my father's Military Medal, his ribbons, papers
and photographs are
with my son Jim. On 12th December 2013 Jim and I decided that
when it is the
appropriate time we will give them to the Lancashire Fusiliers,
You can read the War Diary of 2Lt Hawkins, 2nd Bn Lancashire
Somme at: www.lancs-fusiliers.co.uk The full link is: www.lancs-fusiliers.
co.uk/gallerynew/2LFWW1/2lfww1somme/2lfww1somme.htm We would
like to thank Captain Eastwood BEM, CQSW of the Lancashire Fusiliers
I asked Jim how he heard of Blind Veterans UK, and I don't know
was surprised by his response, as the person who frst told him
about us is
responsible for bringing in many new members.
Jim began: "Ruby and I were on holiday in Scotland in 2008
when we took a
bus. During that bus ride we spoke with a charming woman from
who was on a walking holiday. She asked about my failing eyesight
and if I had
Served in the Armed Forces. I told her I had and she gave us
her phone number
and told me to phone her when we got home and she'd tell me
Veterans UK. I did and that was the frst step to getting my
life back, as that
charming woman was Maria Pikulski, and she helped me to join
UK. Until then I thought things were over for me and I'd sunk
Now I once again have a full life thanks to Maria Pikulski,
Blind Veterans UK and
my Welfare Ofcer Sharon Gradwell. I can never repay them for
all they have
"The frst thing Sharon did was to arrange my training.
She has since arranged
for a stair lift to be put into our home and for a workshop
to be built in the
garden as I go in there to do the mosaic work I enjoy. I learnt
mosaic work at the
Brighton centre. I also did computer training and that is another
lifeline. I use
a telephone with large buttons and a very basic mobile phone
that the ROVIs
taught me to use. The level of training is incredible and from
that frst meeting
with Maria Pikulski, the frst meeting with Sharon Gradwell and
the frst time I
entered a Blind Veterans UK centre for training my life was
put back on track."
Picture: Private Jim
'Ginger' Hodgkinson is shown kneeling in the front row
second from the left. The photograph was taken when he was in
England recovering from his wounds