Villagers look back to commemorate First World War

Villagers look back to commemorate First World War

3014657201 Paul Jackson 22.07.14 Church Lench - Peter Hodgkinson an Desert Rat veteran. (8498587)

3014657202 Paul Jackson 22.07.14 Church Lench - Peter Hodgkinson an Desert Rat veteran. (8498589)

Villages looks back to commemorate First World War

First published in News
Last updated

HE once gave the order to begin the 1,000 gun assault at the second battle of El Alamein.

But on Saturday, August 2, Major Peter Hodgkinson, will start a different event, but one that holds much poignancy for those involved.

The 95-year-old will be officially opening the Lenches World War One Exhibition at the Church Lench Village Hall at 11am to signal the start of the two day commemorative display.

The exhibition, running until 4pm each day, has been organised by Jerry Cain, and is the first in a series of commemorative events.

"On display will be photos, cards, medals and even a map stained with the blood of a soldier. One of the main things is to leave some kind of legacy.

"We are trying to link yesterday's heroes with today's descendants."

One link remaining in the village is Major Hodgkinson himself.

Born on March 19, 1919, he was born before the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.

His own war experiences, though, were in the Second World War.

Major Hodgkinson was commissioned in 1941 as part of the Royal Artillery.

He went on to become a desert rat and played a key role in the war, particularly in the second battle of El Alamein.

"We departed from Liverpool on June 21, 1942," he said. "We arrived in Port Tawfik, Suez, on September 7. After a great deal of secrecy in establishing the position at El Alamein under General Montgomery.

"There was something like 1,000 guns. The attack on October 23. My orders were to open fire at 9.40pm.

"You can imagine the situation there were massed guns behind me and I was going to have to say fire to my troops behind me. It was quite scary.

"It was an amazing experience, the force of the guns sort of tore your clothes off."

The great-grandfather's experience continued as he fought as one of the desert rats, rising through the ranks to become an Observation Post Officer and later a Major.

He was shot at a number of times, including a near miss when a church he had been using as a post was shot down, while Major Hodgkinson was waiting outside - he had a feeling he should wait two minutes before going back in.

Like many veterans he is humble about his achievements, including being mentioned in dispatches, and rarely speaks about the war.

This is one of the reasons Mr Cain is keen to encourage people to visit the World War One exhibition to pass on the experiences of those who are no longer here to tell their story.

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