He was a veteran and a gentleman

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November 11, 2014 1:10 PM

Robert Hodgson

Lashburn resident and Second World War veteran, Bob Hodgson, passed away peacefully in his sleep last month at the age of 91. He is described by family and friends as spiritual, knowledgeable and kind. Not just as a gentleman, but as a gentle man.

During the war he was a radio and Morse code wireless operator for the RCAF. Not long into his service, his plane crashed in German territory, leading to rough times in a series of POW camps.

“On Nov. 2, 1944, his plane, a Halifax Bomber, was shot down over Dussel- dorf, Germany,” explained Hodgson’s daughter, Linda Hatton.

“He was one of only four crew members who survived. He became a prisoner of war for seven months.”

Shortly after escaping the wreckage, he was captured and had to endure the POW camps. The sleeping conditions were poor, as was the food, and according to a diary he kept at the time - kindly provided by Hatton - his skin broke out in scabies and eas were also a threat.

Hodgson went through various forms of interrogation from his captors to which he remained strong, keeping his silence in the face of their questioning. He and his fellow captives were then forced to march between camps, in the cold wind and snow, for weeks at a time. Sometimes they covered up to 50 km a day.

It was around April 21 when they were finally liberated by ussian forces, but they would spend about a month under their supervision before finally getting handed over to the Americans on May 20. Then in June they were transported back to Halifax on the Queen Mary.

Not long before his return to Canada he received a letter from his mother, requesting he visit the wife of a fellow soldier, the plane’s navigator, who didn’t survive the crash of the bomber. Hodgson was asked to stop in Winnipeg on his way back to Lashburn to provide closure for her and he accepted.

It was here that he met his future wife, Helen Penyk, who happened to be the sister of his fallen comrade’s wife. A chemistry soon developed and he proposed to Penyk. The two were then married in Nov. 1945. Hodgson would remain in Winnipeg for a while and become a grain sampler for the Canadian Grain Commission.

“Then he proceeded up the proverbial ladder with that commission and he transferred to Chatham in 1963 and became the inspector for the Chatham division,” said Hatton. “Then he went on to head up the eastern branch of the Canadian Grain Commission.”

By the time of his retirement in 1985 he had spent 40 years in the federal public service. Hatton said he attained as high a position as he could attain within that organization, short of being commissioner out west.

Hodgson is remembered by those close to him as a strong, honest man who lived in the moment – never letting the future or past muddle the present. “He was the most loving father you could ever have in you entire life,” she said. e made a huge inuence on everyone that he met.

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