Pte. F. T. Hookway, of the 2nd Devons, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Hookway, of Richmond-street, Barnstaple, has been invalided home from the Front in consequence of a serious attack of pneumonia and rheumatism, brought about through a most trying, dangerous, and thrilling adventure which he experienced. Pte. Hookway participated in the famous bayonet charge which added laurels to the exploits of the 2nd Devons. Capt. Spencer, of the 2nd Devons, was killed early in the charge. About an hour previously Capt. Spencer distributed a number of pocket Bibles among the men which had had received from his wife. This gift is highly prized by Pte. Hookway, it being the parting gift of a gallant, brave, and popular officer. Pte. Hookway was near Corpl. Webber, another Barumite in the charge, when he was simultaneously bayonetted and shot in the shoulder. On that occasion the Germans had to be turned out of their first line of trenches at the point of the bayonet. The Devons the pushed on to the other lines of the enemy’s defences. Unfortunately Pte. Hookway got astray form his regiment, found himself between the German and British lines,and was unable to tell which was which, having completely lost his bearings in the labyrinth of earthworks etc. With the true spirit of a Devonian he resolved to make the best of it, and sought shelter in a large hole which had been made in the ground by a shell. The pit was partly filled with water, but the Barumite gladly welcomed “any port in a storm,” and light heartedly awaited events, hoping, with a touch of Micawberism, that “something would turn up.” The worst part of it was, having taken off his equipment to facilitate freer action before going into the charge, he had no rations with him. During the whole of the next day Pte. Hookway remained in the “well,” fearing to peep over the top less he should give away his place of concealment. With the shades of evening he decided to “try his luck.” As it subsequently transpired, he was much nearer the German lines than those of the British, but he resolved to reconnoitre the lines farthest away. This was a lucky decision, for a little while later he found himself with the Berkshire Regiment, the members of which gave him a hearty welcome after learning of his exciting experience. By a coincidence Pte. Baglow, whose death in action was reported in the “Herald” last week, was a trench companion of Pte. Hookway. The waste of ammunition on the part of the enemy was described by Pte. Hookway as simply prodigious. On occasions they were blazing away all night, apparently firing at nothing and doing very little damage. The British, however, did not fire unless there was a “target,” with the result that with much less ammunition they exacted far heavier losses from the enemy. Another favourite practice with the Germans was to send up star shells at intervals throughout the night. They seemed to be in constant dread of a night attack by the Allies: presumably they were suffering from an attack of nerves. One of the enemy’s star shells, however, nearly cost Pte. Hookway his life. With three other of his company, he was told off to do some work to the entanglements in front of the trenches. Just as they reached an exposed position the whole surroundings were lit up, revealing their presence to the enemy. The Hun’s infantry opened fire, and one of his comrades was shot through the eye with fatal results, and another was wounded, but happily Pte. Hookway managed to regain the trenches unhurt.
Pte. Hookway was in the trenches on Christmas Day, and witnessed the exchange of greeting between some of the Germans and the British, who shook hands with each other. The truce was a welcome relief, and they were able to sit about on the parapets of the trenches. The Germans asked them to play football, and were begging for biscuits all day, British biscuits being something of a delicacy to them. In the evening, however, the enemy played them false, and opened fire, wounding several of the British soldiers. At the time he fell ill his regiment was between Lille and La Bassée. He described the surroundings as resembling a huge bog, adding that it was quite impossible to move far without being “stogged.” With the fine weather, however, he anticipates big events, and he thinks the Germans will have a warm time of it. Among the interesting souvenirs which Pte. Hookway has brought home with him the large fur coat with which the soldiers have been provided.
transcript taken from the North Devon Herald 25th February 1915 page 5 column d. This just one of many accounts from those who fought in World War One published in the local newspapers. For more visit our North Devon War Items Album on our Facebook Page…Barum Athena