Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Private Gregory Hoban, 2nd Battalion, the Irish Guards, was killed in action during the fighting at Ney Copse and Ney Wood near the Broembeek during the Battle of Passchedaele.
One of three children of a widowed mother, after leaving school Private Hoban worked on his family’s small farm in County Kilkenny in Ireland. In 1916 he enlisted at the recruitment office in Kilkenny City, giving his age as eighteen, when he was in fact only sixteen. In June of 1917 he arrived at Le Havre, seeing action almost immediately.
On the 13th of September, in the area the Germans called the Totenwaldchen (Forest of the Dead), the Irish Guards’ commanding officer withdrew his men back behind the Broembeek, but not all made it to safety. That night the Germans shelled until three o’clock the following morning, stopped for an hour, and then used high explosives for another two hours. Private Hoban was reported missing, but it was not until the following February that it was presumed he had been killed as notification was received that his body had been seen. He was then officially reported as dead. A German soldier had removed the regimental disc from his body, and the report of his death was on the official German list forward by the Red Cross in Geneva.
Private Hoban has no known grave and is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing at West-Vlaanderen in Belgium. His brother Andrew also served in the war – he told no-one what he had suffered, but he came home traumatized and for many years would often wake up screaming in the night, having relived in his dreams the horrors he experienced.
Gregory, from Gowran in County Kilkenny, was 18 years old.