Officers and gentlemen .. and they were always a top target

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Simple statistics will inevitably show that the ‘other ranks’ suffered the highest number of fatalities in the war, they mask the harsh truth, often overlooked by revisionists, that the toll on officers was far greater in proportion to their numbers.

Junior officers were expected to lead from the front and thus were exposed to all the dangers faced by their men, and more. In these early stages of the war, the stereotypical image of the dashing British officer charging the German trenches with little more than a walking stick is really not very far from the truth.

For the most part, and certainly in the ‘regular’ battalions, they were products of the Public School system, until casualty rates opened doors for those who had been educated in the Grammar school system. Eventually, a man’s military merit and basic intelligence became prime factors in selection for officer status.

Ballymena had its fair share of officers from the landed gentry class with the Hodges family, whose estates encompassed the rural Glenravel district, being an early example.

On April 30, 1915, the Ballymena Observer published a photographic portrait of Henry Burden Hodges, a 2nd Lieutenant with the 2nd Btn. of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

Young Hodges had fallen at Ypres just a few days earlier. Lt. Hodges was the younger son of Mr. J. F. W. Hodges JP. He was only 19 years of age and was educated at Sherborne School, Dorset and Sandhurst. He was a noted athlete; last year (1914) he won the pubic school championship at Aldershot in the light weights. He was posted to the KOYLI on 23rd December last and went to the front in the middle of March. He was a prominent Ulster Volunteer and for a time instructor to the Newtowncrommelin Coy of the UVF.

His brother Lt. J. F. Hodges, Royal Irish Fusiliers was wounded on the day that 2nd Lt. Hodges went into the trenches.

Henry Burden Hodges has no known final resting place and is commemorated on the Menin Gate. His brother J. F. Hodges survived the war, winning a Military Cross and Bar for gallantry. Few, if any, remember the Hodges name in Glenravel today. The estate has long since been broken up and sold to local farmers.