Family honours memory of young hero killed in the First World War
JUST before the end of the 100 years since the WWI armistice, I would like you to remember three Oldbury men who died on the same day, 30th July 1915.
They were my greatuncle, George Boswell, and his two friends, Joseph Cooksey and George Martin. They were with the 8th Rifle Brigade and were positioned around Zouave Wood near Ypres.
The advancement by our soldiers was to no avail and the bombardment by the Germans saw these three friends killed by enemy machine gunfire and shell explosions. The poor boys were not identified but are remembered on the Menin Gate memorial, along with other unidentified soldiers, 54,896 altogether, whose graves are unknown.
Later, the Germans used liquid fire for the first time against the British. The soldiers had fought gallantly but with heavy losses and to little avail. Just under 2,500 men were killed that day.
The 8th Rifle Brigade went into the line with 24 officers and 745 other ranks. It lost 19 officers and 469 other ranks either killed, wounded or missing. The Battalion War Diary for 31st July commented “A casualty list is very hard to prepare without details from the Clearing Stations and owing to many being killed and wounded beyond reach”.
A large cemetery now occupies the Hooge Crater, the scene of the flame-thrower attacks. Nearby is a traffic island called Hellfire Corner, aptly named.
My great-uncle is remembered by our family and I am proud to have his medals and also his Princess Mary 1914 ration tin. Every Remembrance Day his medals and photograph are put out so we do not forget.
He sent this photo to his sister, Florence, on receiving his field promotion to lance-corporal. My great-grandmother must have been so proud but then the sad news came that he wasn’t coming home. She lost another son and her husband within a year but not to war.
I have traced the Boswells back to John and Susanna Boswell having a son christened in Oldbury Parish Church in 1791 – so they are truly an old Oldbury family.
Lance Corporal George Boswell, killed in action July 30, 1915