The HODGES family – Lieutenant HODGES, Cyril Evelyn (1881-1967)

Louis Beaumont Moore Hodges (1843-1916) and Jane Banks (1847-1925) married at Spalding on 8th April 1874.  They had children Edith Banks (1875-1886), Amy Gertrude “Gertrude” (1877-1947), Harold Vincent (1878-1897), Cyril Evelyn (1881-1967), Claude Vivian (1884-1962) and Elsie Doris (1886-1960).  Both Louis and Jane were school teachers when they married and, unusually, Jane continued in her profession whilst also having a family.  Louis became headmaster of St Martin’s School, Friar Lane, in 1877 on the retirement of the Reverend Edward Atkins and remained there until his own retirement.  Jane also became headmistress, of Syston Street School from 1879 until her retirement in July 1911 after a total of 43 years teaching service.  It was very unusual for a married woman who was also still bearing children to continue teaching – Jane must have been a remarkable woman.

By the time Cyril Evelyn Hodges was born Louis and Jane lived at 109 Cobden Street.  They moved to 21 Garendon Street in 1882 and remained there until around 1893 when they settled at 70 Melbourne Street. Louise and Jane would live there until their deaths.  The children were baptised in their home parishes but by 1905 Louis and Jane worshipped at St Martin’s.  Daughter Amy Gertrude married at St Martin’s and they appeared on the 1909 testimonial to Canon Sanders.  Louise served as sidesman in 1909 and Jane was a member of the PCC between 1921 and 1924.

Wyggeston Boys School
Wyggeston Boys’ School

Like his brothers, Cyril first attended St Martin’s School and then Wyggeston Boys’ School, from 19th January 1892.  Cyril was an exhibitioner, that is he was awarded a scholarship after successfully passing an examination in December 1891.  In 1905 he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, with an MA in Modern Languages.  Upon leaving Cambridge he took up a position as assistant master at a secondary school in Wanstead, which he kept until 1918.  He also wrote educational papers and was assistant editor of educational books.  Cyril was 5’10” and had a large scar on his right shin as well as a scar over his right eyebrow.

Cyril married Clare Humphreys (1882-1963) at St Peter’s Belgrave on 26th June 1909 and the couple lived at 40 Belgrave Road Wanstead.  They had children Clare Joyce (1911-1996) and Sheila (1914-) who were both born at West Ham.  Sheila was baptised at St Peter’s, Leicester, on 3rd September 1914.

On 25th November 1915 Cyril attested at Stratford, London.  He spent time with the Officers Training Corps before transferring to the London Regiment in April 1917 and then the newly established Royal Flying Corps armament school at Perivale.  Its purpose was to provide training for technical staff handling bombs and guns for air combat.  In 1916 Cyril took part in a fundraising event in aid of St Dunstan’s Home for soldiers blinded during combat.  Later that year his father Louis Hodges died suddenly at The Queensborough Hotel, Eastbourne.  On 10th March 1918 joined the Royal Flying Corps/RAF armament school as assistant instructor in gunnery, after first taking the full course in aero gunnery, which began on 27th December 1917 following the disbanding of the armament school at Perivale a few days earlier.  He was appointed temporary lieutenant on 1st March 2018, having spent several months on probation.  He worked at the new armament school at Uxbridge and during this period Cyril and Clare and the children lived at address Copshall Farm, Harefield Lane, Uxbridge.  He transferred to the unemployed list on 11th July 1919.

After the war Cyril began working as a journalist, in particular writing for children.  He worked for the London Evening Telegraph and London Evening News, where he wrote a column for children called “Uncle Peter.”  This was hugely popular and as a result, in 1925 Cyril was asked by the BBC to undertake the development of Children’s Hour, taking his “Uncle Peter” character with him.  Initially the role was part time but from 1st January 1926 he became a full time official, reporting direct to John Clarke Stobart, the first Director of Education for the BBC.  “His cheery voice is probably more familiar than that of any other member of the BBC staff” said the Sheffield Independent of Cyril on 6th Dec 1928, shortly before he resigned.

After leaving the BBC Cyril concentrated more on travel writing than on children’s stories.  In 1930 he gave a lecture in Dundee “An Englishman Looks At Germany” – introduce his audience to the scenic beauty and mediaeval picturesqueness of that country.  By means of special films he will also deal with the country’s quaint corners and customs, its winter sports and spas”.  In 1933 he gave the same lecture at Swanwick, saying that Hitler had “given hope back to Germany” – the Great War had cut Germany in half, partly because of the war itself and partly because of the way the world had developed since the war.  He spoke of the resulting unemployment and reduction in living standards in Germany.  Cyril also made travelogue films for example “The Lure of the Far North Trail” (1931) and “A Century of Miracles” (1938) and also continued writing for the London Evening News.

During this time Cyril, Clare and the children lived at Journey’s End, 87 Sharp’s Lane, Ruislip, and then from 1937 at The Long House, Charlton Avenue, Walton on Thames.  Cyril and Clare moved to Chimneys, Simplemarsh Road, Addlestone in Surrey at some point after the war.  Cyril continued writing until his death in 1967.

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