Bodley, Thomas Miles Courtenay


Thomas Miles Courtenay Bodley (F 1934-1939) was born on 12th February 1921, the elder son of John Edward Courtenay Bodley, who wrote extensively on French history and was a descendant of Thomas Bodley, founder of the Bodleian Library, and his wife Phyllis Helen, daughter of the Reverend H J Lomax of Buxted.  His younger brother was 2nd Lieutenant John Edward Courtenay Bodley MC (F 1937-1941) who died in action on 30th July 1944 (see individual entry).

The Bodley boys’ parents had married in the English church at Bordeaux on March 29th 1920; it was their father’s second marriage. Miles was named after Miles Coverdale who completed the first printed English translation of the Bible.    The boys’ father died on May 28th 1925 and shortly afterwards the family moved to ‘Farm Gate’, Haywards Heath.

He came to Winchester from Hillcrest Preparatory School, winning the German Speech and the German Prize.   He became a Commoner Prefect and a Lance Sergeant in the OTC.     He had intended to enter the Foreign Office and had spent holidays in Germany and France to improve his language skills. In the summer of 1939 he had gone back to Germany for this purpose and only just managed to leave the country before the outbreak of war.    He immediately tried to enlist but was told he could not do so until he was twenty.  He spent the interim at Oxford and after a year at Magdalen College, Oxford, he was commissioned into the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, then, after a period at Sandhurst, serving with them in France.   There were two fellow Wykehamists in the battalion: 1 Squadron’s commanding officer was Reggie Batt (E1922-1927), and one of Batt’s troop commanders was Lieutenant David Vivian Martyn (I1937-1942). All three would die before the end of September 1944 (see individual entries).

They arrived in Normandy between 29th June and 1st July 1944 and spent a two week acclimatisation period.   They saw action at the battle for Cagny, near Caen, a costly action for 1st Coldstreams who lost many of their tanks, including at least two containing Wykehamists.    By mid August the battle for Normandy had been won and the Germans were in retreat with the Allied forces chasing them to Belgium.  On 3rd September Bodley’s battalion were welcomed in the centre of newly liberated Brussels.

On 6th September he was wounded in the fighting to liberate Beverloo and Heppen in Belgium, during the crossing of the Albert Canal, and died of his wounds on 16th September aged 23.   He lies in grave X.22.14 of the Brussels Town Cemetery.

His commanding officer wrote that he did magnificent work in battle, and that he was always calm and unruffled – “a great Coldstreamer.”   Just before his death he expressed his wish to get back to his unit and finish the war.

His death came seven weeks after that of his younger brother John (F 1937-1941; killed in action 30th July 1944).  In February 1948 an obituary to both brothers was published in the Wykehamist.  Both Miles and John are commemorated on the Haywards Heath War Memorial, and on a plaque in St Wilfrid’s Church, Haywards Heath.  In the brothers’ memory, their mother presented the College with a silver gilt chalice and paten, both replicas of the 1611 chalices and covers already in the Collection.

A collection of letters and diaries are with the Winchester College Archives and can be consulted on application to the Archivist, Suzanne Foster on sf@wincoll.ac.uk.

War: World War 2

  • Surname: Bodley
  • Forenames or initials: Thomas Miles Courtenay
  • House: F
  • Years in School: 1934-1939
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Coldstream Guards
  • Date of Birth: 12th February 1921
  • Date of Death: 16th September 1944
  • How Died: Died of Wounds
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner A2
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Brussels Town Cemetery: Grave X.22.14