THE grandson of one of four brothers who fought in the First World War only discovered his great uncle went to school in Stratford after a 100th anniversary plaque was unveiled in town.
John Hoskins, aged 71, recently published the sobering diary his grandfather Major Herbert R Hoskins kept during his two years on the front, as well as the letters he sent home.
Included is a detailed and heart-rendering account of his brother’s death the former Henley man sent to his mother.
Lieutenant Cyril Hoskins went over the top on 1st July 1916 while attacking three lines of German trenches armed with a pistol.
German machine guns that should have been disabled were still firing but Cyril and his troops somehow managed to take the first two lines. He was killed at the third.
Like his brother Herbert, Cyril was a former pupil of King Edward VI School who signed up to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment with his brothers when all four were in their early 20s.
Herbert returned home, as did John and Tommy, but Cyril failed to do so.
It wasn’t until this month when a 100th anniversary plaque was unveiled in Stratford’s Garden of Remembrance in Old Town that Herbert’s grandson John realised his great uncle went to KES with his grandfather.
He read a report in the Herald that included his uncle’s name among the 31 boys and one master from the school who perished during the war.
“We couldn’t find out where he went, but I suppose in hindsight we were pretty stupid not to ask!” said John, who lives in Blockley. “But equally we spoke to one of the masters who didn’t say anything about Cyril, you thought they would have put two and two together!”
Herbert's grandson John Hoskins, aged 71, who recently published his grandfather's letters from his time at the front.
John’s book is called Thank You Mr Bosh That’s Close Enough. It’s a collection of his grandfather’s letters home, and extracts from his diary during his time stationed at the Somme between 1915-16.
After Herbert came home from the war he moved to Henley before buying a house in Blockley in 1950, where John still lives today. Herbert died in 1978, aged 88.
Thank You Mr Bosh That’s Close Enough is available online at Amazon or at Waterstones in Stratford. Copies can also be bought from John direct for £9.99. E-mail jf@broad close.co.uk
The letter former KES pupil Herbert Hoskins sent to his mother, explaining that her son Cyril had died. (Transcript below)
My dear Mother,
I am now back with the Battalion, and only yesterday knew that Cyril
has been killed. I expect you will know before you get this letter. I
have seen several of the 8th fellows, and all are loud in their praise of
his deeds and tell me he was fine. It was a day of many fine deeds, and
for anyone to stand out in particularly must have done remarkably
well; Cyril did that.
I’ll just tell you shortly what happened. The 8th had to take the first,
second and third lines of Bosh trenches. The guns were supposed to
put all machine guns out of action, but for various reasons as events
proved, failed to do so, the result being that as soon as the 8th got out
of their trenches they were met by heavy fire, and no one knows what
machine gun fire is who has not been under it. Well, Cyril walked
along the parapet on top and rallied his Company, got them out and
formed up in line, and then advanced towards the Bosh first line. He
was already hit in the shoulder, but pistol in hand he took his men
ahead. He got another wound, but kept ahead. It was at the third line
as he was aiming at a Bosh that he was shot dead.
You can be assured he suffered no pain and died a glorious death,
leaving nothing but praise and admiration behind for the wonderful
way he led his Company. This also shows up when I tell you that only
two out of the four Companies got out at the appointed time. The 5th
and 6th did wonderful work and everyone is saying so.
I am distressed at losing him, but so proud he proved his worth and
died not only doing his duty but doing it so wonderfully well. I have
talked with some of his men who were near and they are as proud of
him. His body will be where he fell, as the Bosh retook all the ground.
I am going to look through his kit, and send some home. There is a
rush to catch the post now so I’ll write again. Do not be downhearted,
as it would not be fair to his memory; you should feel proud at his
leadership. He is the first Hoskins to fall, and fell covered in glory.
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