Service number 140507
Born: May 22nd 1918
Died: December 17th 1942
Mark was born in Chesterton, Cambridge, the only child of Ronald Victor Courtenay Bodley and his wife Ruth M. E Stapleton-Bretherton. The marriage was annulled and Ruth married Col G. Pigot-Moodie in 1930.
His father [1892-1970] served in WW1, reached the rank of Colonel in the KRRC and was appointed Assistant Military Attaché to Paris on August 15, 1918. He attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. What he heard there made him feel, as it did millions of other soldiers, that what he had fought for was for nothing. Disillusioned with the military, he considered a career in politics. Through his cousin, Gertrude Bell, he had met T.E. Lawrence who suggested "Go live with the Arabs.”
Bodley promptly sorted his affairs and went to live in the Sahara. His bemused friends held a farewell party but thought that he would be back in six weeks; He did not return for seven years. He lived with a nomadic tribe, purchasing a herd of sheep and goats and using them as a source of income. He wore Arab dress, spoke their tongue and practiced the Muslim faith. He wrote “Wind in the Sahara " published in 1944 and he was considered amongst the most distinguished British writers on the Sahara.
“When I lived with the Arabs one of the strongest impressions I had was of the 'everydayness' of God. He ruled their eating, their travelling, their business, their loving. He was their hourly thought, their closest friend, in a way impossible to people whose God is separated from them by the rites of formal worship”
Ronald’s brother was the artist Josselin Reginald Courtenay Bodley [1893-1974] and his sister was Ava married, firstly, to Ralph Wigram, and, secondly, to John Anderson, 1st Viscount Waverley. Their father, descended from Thomas Bodley, was John Edward Courtenay Bodley, sometime secretary to Charles Dilke and a personal friend of Cardinal Manning.
What influence these relatives may have had on the young Mark is not known. He was educated at Ampleforth and matriculated in 1936. He was Whipper-in for the Christ Church Beagles. He went down in 1938 without taking a degree.
His stepfather’s family had connections with South Africa and Mark returned from Durban on the Winchester Castle in October 1939. The manifest gives his occupation as “traveller”.
He enlisted in the Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons) Royal Armoured Corps and was killed in North Africa on December 12th 1942.
He is buried in the Tripoli War Cemetery. Plot 11. A. 22.
He is commemorated at St. Peter & St Paul's Church in Butlers Marston near Warwick along side John Peter Pigott-Moodie, his stepfather’s only child, killed in 1940 on HMS Greyhound.
Registered Charity Number: 1143423