Ralph Hodder-Williams

A 1916 map of the village shows large sections of the village were controlled by the representatives of Mrs Fanny Hodder (deceased). The Hodder family were a publishing family who lived at Duddings. Their firm Hodder and Stoughton Limited still operates and is a major publisher within Hachette UK, one of the UK’s biggest publishing groups

Before the First World War Ralph Wilfred Hodder-Williams was a professor at the University of Toronto. He enlisted in Montreal on 17 June 1915 with the 2nd University Company and served with the P.P.C.L.I. (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry) in France and Belgium in 1915/16. During the first world War Lt. Hodder Williams was awarded the MC for fighting at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the same battle in which Clifford Merson and Sidney Thorne (of Timberscombe) were killed:

He was wounded by a machine gun bullet to the right shoulder on the 1st day of the battle on 15 September 1916 and admitted into General Military Hospital at Etaples on 17 September.

His citation reads:

conspicuous gallantry in action. Although wounded, he continued to lead his men in the attack, and, after again being wounded, he continued to command his men until the position was made good. He displayed great bravery throughout.”

The Battalion war diary is limited on detail and states:

Fri, Sep 15, 1916 BRICKFIELDS, ALBERT, FRANCE ALBERT 15/9/16 Standing too from 6. a.m. received orders to move up to USNA HILL at 9.30 a.m. reached USNA HILL at 11 a.m. at 2 p.m. received orders to march to CHALK PITS in X 10.c. & make preparations to attack at 6. p.m. Left Chalk Pits at 4.30 p.m. & marched to vicinity of Sugar Trench which was to be the jumping off place for the attack. At 6 p.m. Batn reached vicinity of Sugar Trench which could not be located but marched in file through the Barage & immediately launched the attack & reached its first objective the Sunken road running South of COURCELETTE capturing 75 prisoners. Nos 1 & 3 Coys pushed on immediately to 2nd objective in which footholds were gained on either flank. The central portion of the FABECK GRABEN on either side of the communication we were unable to take immediately. The [inserted: front line] Coys [inserted: aided by supports] consolidated therefore 100 yards from German trench. The supports retired before daybreak to trench behind first objective. Communication with 25th Bn on right from 8 pm and with 49th on left from 9 pm. Shelling during night of 15/16 chiefly in rear of new trench. In the advance at 6 pm on the 15th Major [S.F.A.] Martin [203] : O C No 4 Co’y was killed by shell fire; Lt Rosamund [A.G. Rosamond] was killed by machine gun fire in the advance on the second objective.

Sat, Sep 16, 1916 COURCELETTE, FRANCE 16/9/16 Heavy shelling all morning particularly on support line. About 4 pm took remainder of second objective by bombing attack and 62 unwounded prisoners hordes wounded.

Immediately occupied front trench. From 5 o’clock when our barrage started to aid advance of R.C.R’s and 42nd Bn Germans heavily shelled Fabeck Graben our new front line. Gas alarm at 6 owing [inserted: we thought] to gas shells Details from transport lines brought up rations about 9o’clock. Front line co’ys and Lewis guns relieved by Support co’ys (2 & 4) about 10.30 .

Sun, Sep 17, 1916 COURCELETTE, FRANCE 17/9/16 Evacuation of wounded carried on continuously during the night. At 2 am [inserted: night 16/17] orders came that we were to be relieved by52nd Bn. The relief was carried out just before daybreak. Regiment night patrols were sent out to search for undiscovered wounded and killed. All wounded were evacuated and all dead, as far as were known, buried. Bn had tea on way out at Sausage Valley from bn cookers and marched to Tara Hill where they bivouacked till afternoon. Late afternoon Bn moved to another part of Tara Hill. Total casualties just under 300.

After the war Ralph Hodder Williams returned to England and managed the family business. In 1923 he published his own books entitled “Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, 1914-1919, Vols 1 and 2”

He lived at Duddings and died in 1961, aged 71, in California.

Details of his pearage can be found at thepeerage.com

Written by Lesley Webb in 2020, with thanks to Harvey Grenville for much of the military information.

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