Royal Air Forces Escaping Society 1945-95
Air Chief Marshal Sir Lewis 'Bob' HodgesSir Lewis Hodges was the last President of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society.
KCB CBE DSO* DFC* DL
He died peacefully at home after a long illness on 4th January 2007.
His funeral took place at his parish church at Plaxtol in Kent on 11th January 2007.
Nimrod: Edward Elgar
Introduction: The Reverend Peter Flynn
Prayers of Penitence
Psalm 23: The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want (Crimond)
Reading by David Hodges: The life that I have (Leo Marks)Tribute: by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham GCB CBE DFC AFC DL, reproduced here by permission:
Reading by Nigel Hodges: High Flight (John Gillespie Magee)
I first met Sir Lewis (or Bob as he was more widely known) almost 50 years ago when he was the Gp Capt Stn Cdr of RAF Marham in Norfolk, one of the RAF's busiest and largest operational bases - at that time part of the V Bomber Force when Bomber Command was responsible for Britain's nuclear deterrent.
I was posted there to command one of his three Valiant Squadrons. He and his wife Elizabeth gave my wife and me the warmest of welcomes and we quickly felt one of the family. Hidden behind this warmth and kindness though was a firm leader who set and expected the highest standards. Bob ran a very efficient station but was popular with everyone and hugely respected.
Because Marham was the first fully operational V bomber base it had many visitors during Bob's time in command. Notably Her Majesty The Queen but of unique interest the President and Prime Minister of the Soviet Union - Bulganin and Kruschev. The Government were keen to impress the Soviet leaders with what they would face if they stirred up too much trouble.
Bob's background for such an important post spoke for itself. A very distinguished wartime career in which his bravery made him one of the RAF's most decorated officers. Operating in Bomber Command from early in the war he was shot down in September 1940 in his Hampden bomber returning from a raid on Stettin. He crash landed in a field in Brittany and spent the next 9 months evading capture by the Germans. It is a fascinating story of adventure and danger which I do not have time to recount today but, assisted by French Resistance workers, captured twice by gendarmerie but escaped each time he was eventually repatriated from Gibraltar. Six months later he was in action again, this time on highly dangerous 'cloak and dagger' operations flying supplies and agents into and out from occupied France.
Although he did not know it at the time he brought out Mitterand and Auriol both who later became Presidents of France.
There was no let up for Bob as he spent the last year of the war in the Far East working with Resistance Groups in Thailand and Malaysia on similar work.
When the war ended in 1945 - 61 years ago - Bob was only 27 but, with his wealth of operational experience, a glittering career in the RAF lay ahead. As he rose up the promotion ladder his appointments were always of key operational importance - in Aden at the height of the troubles, in MOD as ACAS for Ops and later as AMP on the AFB (a post for which his understanding and caring of people was ideally suited) and finally in NATO as DCinC of NATO forces in the Central Region.
He retired from the RAF in 1976 - 30 years ago now but he was not the sort of man to sit back and take it easy. He and Elizabeth had bought Allens House here in Plaxtol when they returned from Aden 44 years ago and have lived here happily ever since. I do not have to tell anyone here the contribution they have made to village life. A Deputy Lieutenant of the County, a Church Warden for many years and a keen supporter of all Village activities.
At the same time he immersed himself in a number of RAF Charities. Among many I would just like to highlight his many years as Chairman of Governors of the RAF Benevolent Fund Duke of Kent School, his tour as President of the RAFA, his years on the Council of St Clement Danes Church the RAF Central Church in London.
He will be remembered too for his work to refurbish and modernise the RAF Club where he served later both as President and Vice Patron.
I suggest though that the one dearest to his heart was his Presidency of the RAF Escaping Society. He has over the years kept in constant touch with his wartime friends in particular in France but also in Holland and Belgium.
Since meeting Bob and Elizabeth at Marham, my wife and I have felt privileged to have known them and kept in touch. They have been dear friends as indeed they have been with so many of you. Our sympathy in particular goes to Elizabeth, David and Nigel and their families.
He was a great man.
Hymn: Love Divine all loves excelling
Lesson John 14 vv 1-6 and Address
The Reverend Dr Susan Ramsaran
Hymn: He who would valiant be
The Prayers: The Reverend Peter Flynn
The Lord's Prayer
Commendation and Committal
Hymn: I vow to thee my country
The Blessing: The Reverend Peter Flynn
The Royal Air Force March (H Walford Davies)
There will be a memorial service at the RAF Church of St Clement Danes, in the Spring.
The Daily Telegraph
Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Hodges
page last updated 17 Feb 2007