Peter Denton writes:
Prebendary Francis Vere Hodge, who, as chairman of the trustees of
Glastonbury Abbey, led the team that organised the financing and
building of its visitor centre, died on 15 December, aged 94.
When he was ordained in 1948, after a distinguished military
career in the Second World War, he became the seventh successive
generation of his family to be a Church of England parson. After 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; and, in 1979,
he became the first Bath & Wells Diocesan Rural Affairs
Chaplain. This involved administering the Church's help and advice
to communities in agriculture, horticulture, animal welfare, and
other rural matters. In addition, he was Rural Dean of Glastonbury
from 1975 to 1979, and revised the contentious method of
calculating each parish's share of the Deanery Quota payable to the
diocese for its running costs. He was also resident honorary
chaplain to the Royal Bath and West Show.
He saw his ministry as caring not only for his 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, held inside the cathedral and on its extensive green in
front of the magnificent west portico.
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 a Prebendary of Wells Cathedral
in recognition of his long and exemplary service to the
During the War, as a Forward Observation Officer with the 2nd
Battalion The Parachute Regiment, he had 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 "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, he 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".
In June 1944, he was mentioned in despatches after dropping with
the 7th Parachute Battalion into France, 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 Ramillies,
fired on a strongpoint just 200 yards away. Both operations in
which he was involved became a Parachute Regiment Battle
On his retirement in 1984, he maintained his active interest in
ecclesiastical affairs. Besides his trusteeship at Glastonbury
Abbey, he wrote a number of books and pamphlets on the subjects of
nature and religion.
He married Eleanor Connor in 1942. She died in 2012. He leaves
two sons and a daughter.