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Air Chief Marshal Sir Lewis Hodges (33408)

Lewis McDonald  (“Bob”)              b: 1 Mar 1918             r: 2 May 1976        d: 4 Jan 2007

KCB – 8 Jun 1968 (CB - 1 Jan 1963), CBE – 12 Jun 1958 (OBE – 1 Jan 1954), DSO – 19 Oct 1943, Bar – 19 Oct 1945, DFC – 26 May 1942, Bar – 25 May 1943, MiD – 11 Jun 1942, DL (Kent) – 14 Feb 1992, C de G – xx xxx 1944, LoH (GO) – xx xxx 1988 (LoH Cdr – xx xxx 1948),

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

Plt Off:17 Dec 1938, Fg Off (WS): 17 Jun 1940, Flt Lt (WS): 17 Jun 1941, Act Sqn Ldr: xx Sep 1941, Sqn Ldr: 1 Jul 1943, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1950, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1957, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1961, AVM: 1 Jul 1963, AM: 1 Jul 1968, ACM: 1 May 1971.

 7 Jan 1937:                             Flight Cadet, 'C' Sqn, RAF College.

17 Dec 1938:                           Appointed to a Permanent Commission.

17 Dec 1938:                           Pilot, No 76 Sqn.

23 Sep 1939:                           Flying Instructor, No 76 Sqn

 4 Apr 1940:                            Staff Pilot, No 16 OTU.

 6 Aug 1940:                            Pilot, No 106 Sqn.

25 Aug 1940:                           Pilot, No 49 Sqn.

 4 Sep 1940:                            Interned, escaped and evaded

29 Jun 1941:                            Supernumerary, No 1 RAF Depot

 1 Aug 1941:                            Pilot, No 49 Sqn (wef 29 Jun 1941).

 3-11 Aug 1941:                      Detached to BAT Flight, RAF Finningley.

xx Sep 1941:                            Flight Commander, No 49 Sqn.

31 Mar 1942:                           Supernumerary (non-effective, sick), SHQ RAF Scampton

26 Apr 1942:                            Flight Commander, 'B' Flight, No 24 OTU

11 Nov 1942:                           Flight Commander, No 161 Sqn

xx May 1943:                           Officer Commanding, No 161 Sqn.

xx Nov 1944:                           Staff Officer – Operations, HQ Bomber Command

xx Dec 1944:                            Officer Commanding, No 357 Sqn.

 9 Aug 1945:                            Directing Staff, RAF Staff College (Overseas), Haifa.

xx Oct 1946:                            Attended RAF Flying College.

xx Jan 1947:                             Directing Staff, Joint Services Staff College

 5 Apr 1948:                             Staff  Officer, Joint Planning Staff, Air Ministry.

xx xxx 1952:                             Staff Officer ,  Bomber Command

xx xxx 1956:                             Officer Commanding, RAF Marham.

 7 Apr 1959:                            Assistant Commandant, RAF College - Cranwell

10 Feb 1961:                           AOA, Air Forces Middle East

xx xxx 1963:                             Attended Imperial Defence College.

 4 Nov 1963:                            Air Executive to Nuclear Deputy, HQ SHAPE

22 Nov 1965:                           Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations)

  1 Jul 1968:                             AOC in C, Air Support Command

 2 Nov 1970:                            Air Member for Personnel

31 May 1973:                          Deputy C in C, HQ Allied Forces Central Europe.

 3 Sep 1973 – 2 May 1976:     Air ADC to The Queen.

Following his education at St Paul's, he entered Cranwell as a Flight Cadet in 1937, where attained the rank of Flight Cadet Corporal.  Graduating two years later he was posted to No 78 Sqn at Finningley but in 1940 he was posted to No 49 Sqn flying Hampdens.  It was shortly after this that on 4 September 1940, whilst returning from a raid on Stettin that he was forced to crash land his Hampden in Brittany.  His air gunner, John Hugh Wyatt, having failed to hear his order to abandon the aircraft joined him in his attempt to evade capture and set on foot towards Vichy France.  They eventually arrived in Marseilles at which point their luck ran out and they were arrested.  Hodges managed to escape and make it to Oran by stowing away in a ship, where he was recaptured and returned to Marseilles, here he was imprisoned in the St Hippolyte du Fort, near Nξmes to await trial.  Escaping using a forged pass he managed to get to Perpignan by train from where he took a taxi to the Spanish border, crossing the Pyrenees into Spain.  On arriving in Spain, he was once again arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Miranda del Ebro, but five weeks later the British Embassy was able to arrange his release.  He was eventually repatriated to Gibraltar on 13 June 1941 and on his arrival back in the UK returned to No 49 Squadron, with whom he resumed operations over Germany.

Sgt Wyatt's granddaughter supplied the following: -

"Sgt Wyatt's story is both interesting and unfortunate. He was shot down whilst serving with 49 Sqn, (P1347) and failed to return. In the cold grey light of dawn, F/O Bob Hodges and crew sighted the coastline of what they presumed to be Cornwall. Having been airborne for over 9 hours, shortage of fuel made landing imperative. As they entered the circuit of what they thought to be St.Eval, much to their consternation, they were greeted by light flak. Beating a hasty retreat the pilot gradually climbed to a safe height, and with his engines showing the first signs of fuel starvation, he ordered his crew to bale out.

Hodges after holding his aircraft steady whilst his crew escaped, the pilot then elected to crash land the aircraft (there being insufficient height for his own safe escape). A successful crash landing was made, and much to the surprise of the pilot, Sgt Wyatt was still aboard; intercom problems prevented him from receiving the order to jump.  He was a prisoner of the Vichy French Government.  The broken wreck of Hampden D-Donald had come to rest in a field near St Brieuc in Brittany! The crew became prisoners of war, but while in a camp at Toulouse in southern France, F/O Hodges and Sgt Wyatt managed to escape and returned to England via Gibraltar.  His escape back to the UK allowed him to serve again.

After returning to the UK, John joined 78 Sqn but was shot down again on the 11/8/42 and ended up in Stalag 8b 344 until the end of the war.  He and my grandmother divorced and he married the nurse that aided his recovery and moved to Australia, he is buried in Bundeena near Syndey at the RSL Memorial Club where his ashes and that of his 2nd wife Monica Lawler are together, their is a plaque with their name outside the main entrance on the flag pole base.  This is where they both spent time enjoying the company of their friends.  He died in 1991.  Unfortunately my mother and I never got the chance to meet him, and his children from his second marriage had no idea about my mother, his son Ian has been the one that gave me a lot of information he had found with regards to some paperwork, letters and photos but he like us only have the information and are unable to give any information as John never spoke much about it experience.

They moved to OZ 15/11/1957 I got information on 10/12/2008 as I made contact with Ian (his son) and spoke to his wife Diane.  John was a Lab Technician when migrated to OZ and from what Diane and Ian, when we came to Sydney he continued his medical research at the Atomic Energy Commission at Menai he did a lot of research into cancer, my Mum mentioned Atomic Energy in Harwell not sure why she knows that. Monica his 2nd wife, died of breast cancer in 1976 which devastated him, he pored himself more into work and continued there up into his early 70's but towards the end it was only part time he did remarry sometime in the late 80's and moved to Wachope about 400 k north of Sydney then to Taree where he past away at home."

In April 1942, Hodges was appointed a flight commander with No 161 Squadron.  This was one of two units involved in flying operations in support of SOE.  These could take the form of landing and/or picking up agents behind enemy lines or dropping supplies to resistance groups.   Initially the squadron operated in the latter role with Halifaxes, but by May 1943, when he took command of the squadron, it was also operating Lysanders and Hudsons in the former.   One pick up was different in two ways, the first being that it involved two Hudsons, one flown by him and the second by Fg Off John Afflick, in which they collected 20 passengers and returned them to Britain.  He did not find out until 1945, however, why the mission had been different from others.  It was only when that he was invited to the French Embassy in London and presented with the Legion d'honneur and Croix de Guerre he learnt that one of his passengers had been Monsieur Vincent Auriol, the President of the French Republic. 

Rested in November 1944, he was due to become Personal Staff Officer to Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, who was to become Air Commander-in-Chief, South-East Asia.  However, following the death of his younger brother, he requested to return to operations and was appointed OC of No 357 Squadron, which was tasked with performing similar duties to No 161, but in South-East Asia. This turned out to be a fortunate posting as had he accompanied Leigh-Mallory, he would have been killed when the aircraft carrying him crashed in the Alps en-route to India.   357 was equipped with Liberators, Dakotas and Lysanders and operated over Burma, Siam and Malaya, sometimes conducting flights of 20 hours duration in the Liberators.

In 1953 he took 4th place in the London to New Zealand Air Race flying a Canberra, setting a new London - Colombo record in the process.   In 1956 whilst Station Commander of RAF Marham, which housed three Valiant bomber squadrons, he was appointed Commander of  a Force of Valiants and crews from his three units sent to Malta as part of Operation Albert.   During the build up of the new V-Bomber Force, he occupied various senior staff appointments at HQ Bomber Command in connection with this.

Various command and staff appointments followed, including appointment to the Air Board as Air Member for Personnel and finally Deputy C-in-C Allied Forces Central Europe, before retiring in 1976 to become a Director  of Pilkington Brothers.  He has also held a number of posts as an official of various organisations such as BUPA Medical Foundation (Governor), RAF Escaping Society (President) and RAF Benevolent Fund (President).  He was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent in 1992.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

"HODGES, Lewis MacDonald, A/S/L (33408, Royal Air Force) - No.49 Squadron.

Squadron Leader Hodges served with the squadron in France in 1940, when he displayed gallantry and determination.  Since August 1941, he has commanded a flight and has completed many operational missions, some of which have been undertaken in daylight.  Many of these sorties have been completed in the face of most adverse weather and strong opposition from the enemy.  Despite these difficulties, Squadron Leader Hodges has frequently remained in heavily defended areas for considerable periods, in order to ensure position [sic - positive ?] identification of his target before bombing.

(Source - Royal Air Force Quarterly, September 1942)

Citation for the award of the Military Cross (Mentioned in Despatch awarded)

"HODGES, Lewis MacDonald, A/S/L (33408, Royal Air Force) - No.49 Squadron.

On September 4th, 1940, this officer landed in Brittany and hid in fields until September 12th, when, with assistance from a French woman, he managed to reach unoccupied France.  He stowed away on a steamer sailing to Oran but was discovered and returned under under arrest, to Marseilles where he spent two months in prison. He was then taken to a concentration camp from which he effected a successful escape. He crossed the Pyrenees but was again arrested and spent a further eight weeks in a concentration camp in Spain.  He showed determination of the highest order."

(Source - Air 2/5684)

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“Acting Squadron Leader Lewis Macdonald HODGES, D.F.C. (33408), No.161 Squadron.

This officer has completed many sorties, achieving much success.  He is an extremely efficient and gallant flight commander, whose leadership and unfailing 7 devotion to duly have proved inspiring."

(London Gazette – 25 May 1943)

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

“Acting Wing Commander Lewis Macdonald HODGES, D.F.C. (33408), Royal Air Force, No.161 Squadron.

Since being awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross, this officer has undertaken many sorties.  The successes obtained reflect the greatest credit on the efforts of Wing Commander Hodges whose efficiency and personal example, both in the air and on the ground, have been outstanding.  In most trying circumstances, this officer displayed superb skill, great coolness and determination. “

(London Gazette – 19 October 1943)

This page was last updated on 15/02/24

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