Two Dodgson cousins were the oldest and youngest sons of Helen German Dodgson (Francis Henley Dodgson, killed in the Battle of the Somme, in France, 10 Jul 1916; Guy Dodgson, died in France of battle wounds 14 Nov 1918).
Helen had one surviving child, Philip, her middle son. Philip survived a severe head injury that knocked his Cambridge University lawyer education out of him, however he went back to his regiment after he had recovered, and stayed with it until 1919, when he left to marry and produce a family and cobble a life together that made sense to him.
Philip’s son is my Uncle Guy, an old soldier who is fighting for a war memorial that made sense to Philip and was important to him, I imagine because it meant that the young men in his regiment who had died in battle were remembered.
I know nothing about the soldiers in Philip’s regiment. I do know he mourned his fellow soldiers deeply all the days of his life, and I do know that he and his mother mourned his older brother Francis and his younger brother Guy.
The brothers are still mourned by the Dodgsons and by the descendants of the fiancée of Francis, Marjorie Secretan, who was excitedly planning their wedding in 1916 when she was told he had died in battle in France.
I have seen pictures of Francis, I know he was charismatic, optimistic, delightful to be around. He was always known as Toby, and he was on the way up. He had already graduated from Cambridge University when this nuisance of a war waged with Germany threatened to interrupt his life for a few months. He did what was expected of him, trained quickly as an officer and went with his batman to Belgium to thrash the Germans quickly so he could get back to his life in London.
I spoke with his namesake, Uncle Francis Dodgson who had worked in the London family firm, Hope Dodgson, the same firm that Francis had worked in before he cheerfully went off the war. Uncle Francis was born more than 20 years after Francis was killed. Uncle Guy was so named just over a year after Guy was mortally wounded in the closing weeks of the Great War, Guy died the day the Germans unconditionally surrendered in a train carriage in France.
This tragic story is mitigated for me by the knowledge that today, more than 90 years after the Great War started, two men live and breathe and answer to the names of soldiers killed so young so many years ago, and that even today Francis and Guy are remembered, and that is the point of Uncle Guy’s war memorial.
Uncle Guy is approaching 90 himself. He was training as an engineer at Cambridge University when the British government frantically drafted everyone to stop Britain from following the fate of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Belgium, Holland and being taken over by the Nazis. He himself is an old soldier who was served Britain in the Second World War, in Africa and India as an engineer. His activities in India included training paratroopers to jump out of airplanes.
I was delighted to find out that Uncle Guy still changes the tires on his car when he needs to when he motoring around the countryside near his house in Hampshire where he spent years after the Second World War running a business that he refers to as a “market garden” but on pressing, I find that at the peak season around Christmas, at the peak of his business, he was hiring as many as 100 employees. He never thought he achieved much, just tells me that he did his duty as a soldier and as a civilian.
Uncle Guy tells me he has a cellular phone now, just in case he needs to call for help. I cannot imagine he would ever ask for help; he hasn’t jumped out of an airplane for some years and has some problem with his neck that needs a brace, but I know that if he had to jump from a mile up in the sky to raise funds for his war memorial, he would do it.
I want this memorial fixed because my Dodgson family was decimated by Europeans waging war and sucking in the rest of the world twice last century, because I married a German whose family was also decimated, because my father MCH Dodgson and his brother Tony Dodgson were both caught up in the Second World War, and both were severely hurt by it: my father emotionally in London when he was a medical student when London was bombed and so many civilians killed, and in Burma where he was the medical officer in a medical unit made of mainly of Nigerians. Uncle Tony had a kidney and the use of his legs shot out when he was 19 in France, and died from his war injuries 39 years after the war had ended.
War memorials are for the living, to mourn forever the deaths of young men, and to mourn the loss of innocence and bodily functions in the soldiers than lingered and died quietly and painfully years after their young brothers.
I am so thrilled to be related to Uncle Guy, I love his energy and his passion and I want his war memorial to be restored the way he needs it to be. His war memorial in London is on the banks of the Thames and it was vandalized and he is getting it fixed.