William Hoyes Costall was born Hough about 1880. In 1881 he was living with his parents John (a farm labourer born in Hough) and Mary, (born Dry Doddington) near to the Brownlow Arms. By 1885 they’d moved to Brandon (possibly in the area behind the phone box). By the time of the 1901 census the family had moved to Mansfield.
In 1898 Wiliam, who was working as a carter, volunteered for the Derbyshire Regiment at Nottingham on 18 Jan 1898. At a medical in Derby the next day he was described as being 18 years 11 months, 5ft 6”, 123lb, with a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. His religion was C of E.
He was posted to 1st Battalion Derbyshire Regiment (Mounted Infantry). The battalion left Suez on 28th November 1899 to join the Boer War. Shortly after landing the battalion was sent to Sterkstroom in the Eastern Cape and then to Bushmanshoek. They remained in this district until the advance north towards the Orange Free State. Costall drowned in the Orange River on 1 Mar 1901.
‘Major Godley was left in command of a detachment at Commissie Drift: it proved difficult to hold, parties of Boers on the Free State side of the river able to fire into the camp. In order to put a stop to it a party under Sergeant-Major Erwin, was despatched to Ventner’s Drift, a place reported fordable. To prove this, a man of the H.L.I. (Highland Light Infantry) walked across, and a Kaffir boy on a horse was sent over to test the strength of the stream, and left stationary as a point for the men to march upon.
Sergeant-Major Erwin then formed up the men; the scouts were started off at three horses distance, Corporal Bradshaw leading, him being a powerful swimmer. All went well for three-fourths of the journey. It was noticed by those on the bank that the men were going too far to the left. Several called out ‘Go more to the right!’ No notice was taken so a man was sent into the water, and almost reaching the rear horse, repeated the caution, also disregarded, the Corporal going more to the left. At once his horse began to swim; the others closed up and followed suit. Corporal Bradshaw with Privates Murphy, Hull, Costal and threw themselves into the surging river to be washed away and never seen again apart from Private Hull, his body recovered twenty miles down river. The H.L.I. dived for hours at the place their comrades were last seen. All horses swam to the bank and were recovered.’