Private Silas Hodges: 49th Battalion

Guest blogger: Lockyer Valley Regional Council.

Displayed in the ‘Walk of Fame’ inside the Lockyer Valley Cultural Centre, Gatton, are ten photographic portraits of Lockyer Valley locals who fought in the First World War. The portraits formed a component of the recent Queensland Government-sponsored exhibition ‘Queensland Transport Museum Salutes 100 Years of ANZAC’, which was on display in the adjacent Queensland Transport Museum from 11 April to 30 June 2015, and featured First World War motorised and horse drawn machinery.

This post is the tenth and last in a series which features Lockyer locals whose portraits and biographies are in the ‘Walk of Fame’. Where possible, we have supplemented their stories with some images from the State Library of Queensland or Australian War Memorial collections. We acknowledge the Lockyer Valley Regional Council, Derek Barry and Russell Tattam for allowing us to share their content, which can also be found on the Lockyer Valley Libraries catalogue and Flickr.

Silas William Hodges was born on June 8, 1896, the son of Silas and Isabella Hodges of Laidley Creek West. After leaving school Silas went to work for Mat Toohey, a harness maker in Laidley.

Silas was 19 years old, but put his age up to 21 years 3 months when he enlisted on September 16, 1915 with the rank of private (service number 3831). He was posted to the 9th Reinforcement, 25th Battalion and left Brisbane aboard the HMAT Wandilla on January 31, 1916. The ship arrived at Alexandria on April 2 and Silas was reassigned to C Company 49th Battalion, 13 Infantry Brigade as part of a Light Machine Gun Section.

He greatly missed his family back home, especially his little sister to whom he sent many post cards. On one dated May 25, 1916 he writes:

‘Dear Little Possum,

I am sending this card and hope it will find you enjoying good health as I am well at present. I hope you are a good little girl Myrtle and do what mother tells you. With best love for all at home

From your loving brother. Silas’

Silas was sent to France and disembarked at Marseilles on June 12 and was posted to the front line. Sickness was rampant in the trenches and Silas was admitted to hospital on several occasions over the following months. Dug in at a railway cutting on May 5, 1917 at Noriel near Bullacourt, Private Hodges’ Section had just repelled the Germans when his Lewis machine gun malfunctioned. While clearing the weapon it discharged, hitting him in the head and killing him instantly. His death was witnessed by Private A.R. McPhee who reported back that he saw Gunner Hodges “killed by accident” after the attacks on that day. “The gun he was using had got out of order, and he was trying to put it right, when it suddenly went off, and shot him through the head, killing him instantly,” McPhee wrote. “I saw him taken away for burial. He was 5’4 or 5’5, well built, fair 19 or 20 years.”

Silas Hodges was buried by the side of the sunken road where he died and his grave marked with a rough wooden cross. He was 20 years and 10 months old. His name is listed on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.

There are four Hodges named on the First World War section of the Laidley Cenotaph, including Silas, and all are cousins with two of them brothers. Albert Henry Hodges was the son of Thomas William and Sarah Jane Hodges of Laidley. A member of the 18th Battalion, he was killed aged 34 on August 22, 1915, and is buried in the Lone Pine Memorial Cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Gunner Albert Edward Hodges was the son of Samuel and Martha Hodges of Thornton. He died on October 10, 1916 at Salisbury Plains in England. He is buried in the St John the Evangelist Churchyard at Sutton Veny, Wiltshire. Charles Frederick Hodges was the brother of Albert Henry. A member of the 26th Battalion, he died aged 23 on November 14, 1916. He is buried in the Warlencourt British Cemetery at Pas de Calais in France.