Records of a Padre During the Second World War
From the files of The Gazette June 02, 1994.
William Charles Hodgins was born December 11, 1903 in County Nenagh, Tipperary, Ireland. He attended Trinity College, Dublin and graduated from the University of Dublin with honours in Oriental languages, Hebrew and Aramaic; a year later the theological college of the university awarded him a first class diploma in Divinity, which was followed by a Master's Degree. He was ordained in 1929 by the Bishop of Liverpool (Church of England) and held a curacy at St. Andrew's, Southport, Lancashire, England. In 1934 he became vicar of Holy Trinity in Essex.
In 1940, shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Hodgins was appointed chaplain to the 57th Newfoundland Heavy Regiment, which subsequently became the 166th Newfoundland Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. He served with the regiment for the duration of the war. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by King George V for service to Britain and to the regiment.
In 1946, following discharge from the army, he became 37th rector of Hagley, a residential parish near Birmingham, England. In 1949 he was invited to assume the incumbency of St. Mary's in Newent, Gloucestershire, where he served continuously until 1960, except for a year during 1956-1957. That year was spent on a one-year exchange visit with the Rev. Robert Dunn of St. John's Church, Portsmouth, the oldest Episcopal parish in the Diocese of New Hampshire, USA. In 1958, shortly after returning to England, Hodgins was appointed rural dean of North Forest, Diocese of Gloucestershire, which included 30 churches and 19 parishes.
In 1960 Rev. Dunn died; the vestry of St. John's Church approached Hodgins to become their rector. He accepted and in September left England for the United States. He remained there until his retirement in 1974. Retirement was spent at Cutts Island, Kittery Point, Maine.
Hodgins spent World War II as chaplain to the Newfoundland soldiers who comprised the 57th Heavy Regiment and later the 166th Field Regiment. Firm bonds of friendship, based on mutual respect and genuine affection, developed between padre and soldiers. It was a friendship that was to last long after the war had ended. In 1968 he was a guest of honour at the 27th Anniversary Dinner and Dance of the 166th Royal Artillery Association at Grand Falls, Newfoundland and in 1974 he participated in the presentation and dedication of a Newfoundland Book of Remembrance at Confederation Building, St. John's.
In 1953, Hodgins married Ingrid Jungensen, a nurse from Denmark whom he had met during a brief stay in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham in 1951. They had one daughter, Alice.
Hodgins died April 2, 1982. He had been in the process of writing an account of his experiences in World War II. His wife and daughter arranged for publication of the manuscript: Marching Together: The Recollections of a Padre (1983).
There is a small collection of material that had belonged to Hodgins in the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives. It consists of notebooks, diaries and correspondence, almost all from the years of World War II. The notebooks contain field notes, ideas for sermons and some of the sermons themselves, orders of services, poems, or bits and pieces of poetry, and other assorted items. The diaries (1941-1945) contain some of his personal thoughts and feelings as well as a day-by-day account of his activities. There are seven letters (all 1941) from St. John's residents: parents, usually mothers, whom he had notified of the death of their sons. There is also a slim notebook containing handwritten poems which does not appear to be written in Hodgins' hand. The notebook bears the initials MGT.
This collection was a gift to Memorial University of Newfoundland from G. Campbell Eaton, a great benefactor and honourary graduate of the university, who also served with Hodgins during World War II. It was presented to the Centre for Newfoundland Studies by the Office of the President in 1993.