Lieut. Walter Frederick Hoblyn (1893 – 1915)
When war broke out in the summer of 1914 Walter was working as a railway official on the Guayaquil and Quito Railway in Ecuador, but soon returned to the UK, arriving back on British soil during December. Prior to the war his family had moved to Warren Wood in Wrotham Heath, and Walter gave this address when he visited the Dukes Road recruiting office in London on 30 December. He joined the 2nd/28th Battalion, The London Regiment (Artists Rifles) and was sent for training at the Richmond Park Camp in Roehampton.
3087 Pte. W. F. Hoblyn quickly rose to the rank of lance sergeant, and having been a member of the OTC at Marlborough, was among those selected for an officer commission during early summer 1915. He was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant on 30 June and reported for duty in Windsor with No.2 Company, 4th Battalion (Pioneers) Coldstream Guards. The Pioneers had been re-designated from a reserve battalion, and as such their new role would have been in the construction of field works, the maintenance and repair of roads and approaches to the immediate front, and to assist the Royal Engineers, however they could also be called upon to fight when required.
On 15 August, after several weeks training, the 4th Coldstream marched out of camp and entrained for Southampton, where they embarked on board the La Marguerite and sailed for France. On arrival in Le Havre, the battalion, who numbered 1,027 men, travelled by train to join the Guards Division, which had been forming southwest of St. Omer at Lumbres. Walter’s company detrained on the 18th and billeted at Wavrans, where they began a further period of training, the main thrust of which consisted of four hours of digging trenches in either the morning or afternoon, interspersed with long route marches.
Two weeks later during the afternoon of 1 September the battalion left Wavrans and marched to the village of Cléty (south of St. Omer) where they immediately began constructing a line of new trenches, working up to eight hours a day, over a three-week period.
Walter’s battalion was attached to the 2nd Guards Brigade on 23 September and began its journey towards Loos, where they would provide support for the Guards Division. The first part of the march from Cléty to Cottes took about seven hours with the men afforded a day’s rest before marching off again the following morning towards Haillicourt, which is southeast of Béthune. During this period Walter would have heard the pre-attack artillery barrage thundering in the distance, a sound that was to edge closer and closer as his unit moved up the line towards the battlefield.
The battalion arrived at Haillicourt at 1:15 a.m. on the 26th and were attached to the 3rd Guards Brigade, however within hours they were on the move again and marched for a further six hours to Noyelles-les-Vermelles. Walter had been on the road for over 48 hours when he reached the trenches and arrived just as three brigades of Guards attacked towards an objective east of Loos at a position known as Hill 70. Without time to rest the Coldstream soon found themselves employed in rebuilding trenches and reinforcing fortifications. On the 27th Walter’s company were sent after dark to assist the 3rd Brigade in consolidating their position on Hill 70 and on the 29th took over the reserve trenches east of the village, near the Vermelles Water Tower, with the rest of the battalion.
Relief came in the form of a battalion of Northamptons who took over the line on 30th, however Walter’s company was among three from the battalion selected to remain behind for several hours and strengthen the defences for the incoming Division.
During the night, whilst out on the wire near the water tower, Walter was spotted by the Germans and shot in the spine. He was evacuated to No.18 Casualty Clearing Station near Lapugnoy where he died of his wounds at 7:15 p.m. on 1 October.
Walter was buried at Lapugnoy Military Cemetery and posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals.
Photograph of Walter Hoblyn courtesy of Richard Hoblyn.
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