Veteran’s tales of life on frontline enthrall students

Kane Darley, a year-11 student at Slindon College, shakes hands with war veteran Denis Hosgood
Kane Darley, a year-11 student at Slindon College, shakes hands with war veteran Denis Hosgood

WAR veteran Denis Hosgood has inspired students with his first-hand account of life on the frontline.

He was 13 years old when the Second World War broke out but later saw action across Europe, fighting the Nazis in France, Holland and Belgium.

Students at Slindon College had the opportunity to ask Denis searching questions about day-to-day life as a soldier and conditions on the Western Front.

Mrs Hopkins, business and community liaison manager, said: “Our heartfelt thanks go to Denis for bringing his memories alive for our pupils, who have already studied The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Machine Gunners but nothing can compare with hearing about the war from someone who was actively involved.”

She said they were completely enthralled by the 89-year-old’s memories of real-life danger, near-misses, deep friendships and human compassion on both sides of the war.

The students were moved by Denis’ stories of hand-to-hand combat with bayonets and once, in disbelief, having to dodge ‘stonking’ by his own artillery, who were firing on British soldiers by mistake.

They were also interested to hear in detail about the weapons and tanks used and the medals and commendations Denis had earned.

Denis, who lives in Littlehampton, left school when he was 14 to work in a factory that made submarine detectors and by the time he was 15, determined to be part of the war effort, he had joined the Home Guard.

He joined the army six weeks after his 17th birthday, in June, 1943, and was accepted for primary training as an infantryman in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.

Soon at the frontline, Denis fought during the invasion of Normandy, landing at the start of August, 1944, as part of reinforcements.

At the Battle of Le Havre, he suffered a severe head wound and had shrapnel lodged in his jaw. German POWs found help for him and their swift action probably helped to save his life.

Denis was sent back to Cardiff for hospital treatment and during the flight home, the nurse propped him up so he could see the white cliffs of Dover and know for sure that he was back in ‘Blighty’.

Once recovered, Denis served in India and Japan, visiting Hiro and seeing the impact of the Allied bombing on Hiroshima.

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