Christmas 1914: ‘A man playing a penny whistle’ Chandos Hoskyns

  • Chandos Hoskyns at Winchester College
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Chandos Benedict Arden Hoskyns

Today I’m commemorating my maternal grandfather Lieutenant-Colonel Chandos Hoskyns. This is a letter he wrote to his family in December 1914.  I suspect what’s being describing the start famous ‘Christmas Truce’.  

2nd Bn Rifle Bde.
25th Inf Bde.
8th Divn.
Brit. Exp. Force
[Xmas 1914]

Darling all!

I hope you got my Xmas letter all right only I hear Grannie sent it on, the one thing I did not want done as I particularly wanted you all to get it together on Xmas day.

I am sending you the IVth Corps Xmas Card – rather a crude drawing I’m afraid but you’ll find it rather interesting as it has on it all the signatures of the other company officers. It will be rather nice to keep won’t it. E P Watts 53rd Sikhs (FF) is attached to us as second in command of the company. He is a topper. He is in the Indian Army (FF = Frontier Force) & as hard as nails.

I got a topping letter from Mr Gilbert at the same time as your last one. Just after I got it a frantic [?] note came from HQRS “Stand to arms at once!! this was in the trenches. Apparently an aeroplane of ours had been reconnoitring & had seen masses of G’s troops concentrating behind the village in front of us. Great excitement. That night patrols went out to find out what they could. One came back saying the Germans were cutting their own barbed wire entanglements to get through preparatory to making an attack. However nothing happened. On our right some miles away the line was heavily attacked. Later on a funny thing happened. A patrol went, (trembling in every limb) got quite close to the enemy and actually heard — (another thrilling instalment in our next issue) a man playing a penny whistle & man singing!

I got a topping letter from Mr Gilbert at the same time as your last one. Just after I got it a frantic [?] note came from HQRS “Stand to arms at once!! this was in the trenches. Apparently an aeroplane of ours had been reconnoitring & had seen masses of G’s troops concentrating behind the village in front of us. Great excitement. That night patrols went out to find out what they could. One came back saying the Germans were cutting their own barbed wire entanglements to get through preparatory to making an attack. However nothing happened. On our right some miles away the line was heavily attacked. Later on a funny thing happened. A patrol went, (trembling in every limb) got quite close to the enemy and actually heard — (another thrilling instalment in our next issue) a man playing a penny whistle & man singing!

Well there is no more news to tell. We are resting now after 6 days running in trenches. By Jove the dirt – One almost walks about without meaning to.

Much love to all

Your loving

Chan

Lieutenant-Colonel Chandos Hoskyns
1885 – 1940
Lest We Forget

Chan [pronounced ‘Shan’] also fought in the Second World War taking part in the Seige of Calais in 1940 where he was badly wounded. He was transferred to a hospital in Dover and was expected to live by the doctors but he was too concerned about the men under his command still fighting, which hindered his recovery. His death had such an enormous impact on his wife, Joyce Austen Taylor who had already lost her only brother in the First now loses her husband and is devastated. It had a particularly bad effect on my mother, his daughter. It never left her and shaped many of her choices in life. There are more forbears in the wider Hoskyns family who dealt with loss in both wars as with families all over the world.

Sarah Vernon © 11th November 2020

A Story of Selflessness in the Shadow of war | Cemetery Club

As we pause and remember the sacrifices made all those years ago, here’s a true story that I often tell as part of my Tower Hamlets Cemetery tour. This story of heroism from a lege…

Source: A Story of Selflessness in the Shadow of war | Cemetery Club