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Hugh Costello was born in Preston in 1880 and was the son of Thomas and Mary Costello who were living at 26 Edward Street. Thomas was a grinder in a cotton factory.

I have been unable to locate census records for 1891 or 1901 but pick Hugh up again in Preston when he married Eleanor Durham during the first quarter of 1902. By the time of the 1911 census he and Elenor had two daughters, Eleanor (b. c1904) and Veronica (b. c1908). and were living at 22 Lodge Street, Preston. Hugh was employed as a dock labourer and Eleanor was working as a weaver in a cotton mill.

The missing 1901 census might indicate Hugh was in the Army in South Africa at that time*, although records for this haven’t been found either but it might explain him being sent out to reinforce the 1st Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 22nd September 1914 with a large draft of mainly pre-war Special Reservist soldiers.

* There is no evidence to support this theory

Private Hugh Costello was posted as missing after the action at Gheluvelt near Ypres on 31st October 1914. He was later to be presumed dead for official purposes.

Extract from `Military Operations, France and Belgium 1914`

Ghehvelt and the salient of the Queen`s taken, the 31st October enemy turned his attention to the two companies of the 1/Loyal North Lancashire, about two hundred and fifty strong, and the detachment of the 2/Royal Scots Fusiliers, numbering a hundred and twenty, who were to the south. These troops were holding over a little over half a mile of front in a line of small rifle pits – each holding a couple of men – some fifteen yards apart, hastily dug the previous night with entrenching implements. Their orders were not to retire, but to report if reinforcements were required.

Until noon they suffered much from fire, particularly from Zandvoorde, but no attempt was made to close with them, for they had a good field of fire and shot down any Germans who showed themselves. The disaster to the Queen`s on their left was observed, and also that a company of the Bedfordshire in a wood on their right had disappeared; but the parties still held on and kept the enemy at bay. Reports of the situation were sent back, but none of the messengers reached brigade headquarters. Towards 1.30 p.m. the Germans were all round the small force; it was under machine-gun fire from the rear at a hundred yards` range, and infantry were creeping in from both flanks. Eighty of the North Lancashire, including one Officer, remained alive to be captured, and half of this number was wounded. Next morning the survivors of the battalion mustered only one Officer and thirty-five men.

The following is an extract from ‘The Diary of a Second Lieutenant‘, a personal account of the 30th and 31st October 1914.

Next morning we opened our eyes to a nasty event. The Germans began to shell us; we hug the trench as much as we can, but several men are hit. About 9-am we are ordered to advance and support the Royal Scots Fusiliers and Queen’s Regiment, said to be heavily pressed. We moved forward in lines of Companies; I am on the extreme left. We have an unpleasant time advancing, from shell and machine-gun fire, I find the right of Queen’s Regiment, but they are too hard pressed and are about to evacuate their trenches. We retire first and cover their retirement. Many casualties occur and units are much mixed up. We take up a fresh position, but have to dig a new lot of trenches. Many wounded are left out. Towards morning we are told to surrender our trenches to the Bedfords. We return to our original trenches and occupy them, but my Company has to dig a fresh lot. The effort is too much for us, for by this time we are dead beat.

After I had dug down a couple of feet I gave it up, and told the men to do the same. We had to reserve some strength for the morrow. By this time we have not many men left per Company. About 25% become casualties. Pass a very unpleasant night.

Next day, the 31st (which was the worst day of all), the bombardment commenced at dawn. We sat in our trenches and prayed that they would not come, for we were quite helpless and unable to move. At nine we are sent to attempt a counter attack. A most important rising in the ground has been captured by the Germans. We move off (just as we leave the trenches several men are struck down by shells) and attempt to move through the village of Gheluvelt. I am leading with my platoon, and in attempting to cross a lane we are enfiladed by a machine-gun. Most fortunately no man was hit, but Major Carter, D.S.O., sent Capt. Ryley off to try and locate the gun. That was the last heard, or seen of him. I am now in command of the Company. I reach the main road of Gheluvelt and there come to a standstill. It is quite impossible to advance any further on account of the terrific shelling. You cannot see parts of the village for the smoke and dust coming from the bursting shells. Also bullets seem to come from all directions. I am now joined by 2nd.Lieut Ker and Capt. Prince with “C” Company. We are still more or less bewildered by the noise. I confer with Prince and we decide that it is impossible to advance through what is in front of us with the few men we have got.

These men are dropping like flies all around us, so we withdraw again to our trenches. This little movement which lasted only about half an hour, has cost us dear. Two officers and half the two Companies have been placed hors de combat; I only have Ker left. We now have to sit under a terrible shelling in shallow trenches. The 60th Rifles are on our left. My trench has a door over the top and, lying with my stomach against the near parapet, I manage to avoid the bits of shrapnel which, bursting very low, actually come into the trench and splinter the door over my head. I have several narrow shaves. Ker is also having a bad time, and we every now and then call to each other to ascertain if still alive. The men are by this time very shaky, but hold out splendidly. After being there until about 1-p.m. we are ordered to retire, the Germans having rushed our front line to the extent of a couple of miles. We are not strong enough to counter attack yet, so have to abandon all our wounded, many of whom I am afraid were murdered by the enemy. We retire under very heavy shell fire and in very bad order. Units are terribly mixed up, and we only manage to keep together five officers and about 40 men. We are pursued by shells the whole way and have many narrow shaves. We retire slowly on Hooge, and find that a general retirement for the whole line has been issued.

This is almost immediately countermanded and we advance. The whole Brigade only numbers about 200. We press forward and attack and drive the Germans out of a wood on the side of the Menin Road. We bayonet and shoot hundreds and are weary with fighting. The ground was covered with the dead and dying. We did not advance beyond the wood.


Hugh Costello’s body was not identified on the battlefield and as such he is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

The Lancashire Evening Post printed the following on 22nd April 1916;

COSTELLO – In loving memory of my beloved husband Pte. HUGH COSTELLO, 1st Loyal North Lancs. reported dead on 31st October 1914, or since. Sadly missed by his sorrowing Wife and Children, 22 Lodge-street, Preston; also his Father, Mother, Sisters and Brother, James.

“Could we have raised his dying head,
Or heard his last farewell;
The grief would not have been so hard.
For those who loved him well.”

On 6th December 1914 Eleanor’s brother, Saddler-sergeant Durham was killed and the next day she lost a baby (source: LEP, Monday 24 April 1916). The baby was possibly Hannah Costello (b. Preston 1914-d. Preston October 1914), the death of her brother is unlocated with that rank – but there was 4404 Private William Durham of the 1st Battalion killed on that day – we recorded previously he had a sister named Ellen so this may be Eleanor.

Eleanor would later take receipt of her late-husband’s 1914 Star and clasp, British War Medal and Allied Victory medal. She would also receive a memorial plaque and scroll bearing his name and in recognition of his sacrifice and asked for his name to be included on the Roll of Honour at the Harris Museum and Library.


Original submission form for Harris Museum RoH

Rank: Private
Service No: 10880
Date of Death: 31/10/1914
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.

Paul McCormick
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