Picture above, cousins whose lives were defined by wars of the British Empire. The bigger one holding the hand of the smaller: the bishop tending to the physician. Maurice was always concerned with the bodies, and particularly the souls, of anyone he met. More than 90 years after this picture was taken, it gives me great pleasure to see these children of war and think about their purpose-filled lives.
My father, Michael Cecil Heathfield Dodgson, the baby with the impossibly thick, curly blonde hair, was born to Hubert and Hannah Dodgson. Hannah was the widow of Scottish portrait painter Campbell Lindsay Smith.
Maurice Arthur Ponsonby Wood was the only child of Hannah's sister, Jane, and Arthur Wood, and was born one month after his Uncle Maurice Cambie was killed in World War I.
In his last years, in 2004, I visited Maurice and his wife Margaret in a Norfolk retirement home. He told me that his step-father Rev Solomon Cambie could not bear to hear Maurice called by name, so deep was his grief for his only son.
From the Imperial War Museum, written next to a hat that Cousin
Maurice wore when he landed on D-Day:
'Royal Navy chaplain's cap worn on D-Day by the Reverend Maurice
Wood (later the Right Reverend The Bishop of Norwich) who landed on
Sword beach with Group S1, as chaplain of the Royal Naval Beach
Commando. Bishop Wood conducted the first communion service on
the D-Day beaches'.
The Right Honorable Rev Bishop Maurice Arthur Ponsonby Wood DSC was born in Ireland on 26 August 1916 and lived a huge, energetic, cheerful life until his last breath in Norfolk on 27 June 2007.
His mother Jane was one of the 4 Dalziell-Piper sisters; another was my father's mother, Hannah. Their mother had been Miss Agnes Doherty, a straight line from a bright young man from County Donegal. The 4 sisters good friends, and their children told me of holidays spent together in a parsonage in Norfolk, where sister Kitty's husband was parson. The cousins included my father Michael Dodgson, his brother Tony Dodgson (paraplegic in Aug 1944 in France); Robert Thomas (killed in Italy, 1943) and Geoffrey Thomas (disabled from birth, did not survive to adulthood) the sons of a Brigadier-General married to Rachel; Josephine and Dr Peggy Banks (medical corps in India) and the eldest cousin, Maurice Wood.
I first met Cousin Maurice when he showed up in Sydney during my final year of high school, and my mother took him and my siblings to the beach at La Perouse. It was July, the Australian winter, and we were all beyond impressed when Cousin Maurice stripped down to bathing shorts and dived into the sea for a not-so-quick swim. Gosh. We came from strong stuff. The background picture is that beach.
I visited Cousin Maurice in England 3 times. The first was right after my wedding to an Australian medical student, Gavan Schneider, in January 1974. We were in England for 6 weeks. We asked if we could come the first weekend in January, he told us he was preaching to the Queen and that involved duties. We came the second weekend, and were treated beautifully and got to stay in the palace that comes with being Bishop of Norwich.
My second visit, in 1985, I
married to an American ophthalmologist, with 2 toddler sons,
so the visit was short, a one-night visit on my way back from
Amsterdam after a biochemistry conference. I stayed with another cousin,
Josephine Cook, daughter of my grandmother's sister Kitty Banks.
was packing up the palace to retire from being bishop, and he gave me a
painting by his aunt, the 4th Piper sister, Rachel Thomas, and some family photos,
including some of my father and grandmother. The most precious is the
photo of Campbell Lindsay-Smith, which I suspect was banished from my
grandfather's house when he married Campbell's widow.
that Maurice was a conservative evangelical, and that he opposed the
ordination of women, so I told him I eventually wanted to be an Anglican
priest. He told me how sorry he was that the Bible forbade it, and
anyway I had a good husband and children and why would I want that? I
told him because I wanted to live in a Bishop's palace, like the one
behind us. I hadn't known then that in the House of Lords he had
proposed bringing back hanging. I would certainly have attacked him on
Maurice was dogmatic and conservative in his
religion. He believed faith in Jesus was the path to healing everything,
including homosexuality, And yet his love for individuals over-rode his
beliefs. Two of his 4 sons love men, and this was not an impediment to
him loving his sons unconditionally.
They did, however, keep him
in blissful denial. He happily told me during my visit in 2004 that his
youngest son was a good friend of the daughter of the Duke of
Wellington. God bless them both.
During my visit in 2004 I asked him about D-Day, and why he was awarded his DSC. We sat on a sunny balcony off his sitting room, surrounded by rosemary in full blue bloom, and he told me that he was supposed to be in the first wave going ashore on Sword Beach, with the Royal Marine Commandos, but that a Norwegian ship was hit by 2 torpedoes, and it sank, in the shape of a V. Immediately his boat diverted to rescue those still living, and pray with the dying as they fished them out of the water. When they had done all they could, he want ashore with his Bible and ministered to those in need. He told me that after some hours, many hours, he was able to find a tin cup filled with hot tea. And that as he was about to drink it, a bullet landed in the cup, and all was spilled.