Harry Costin grew up in Martha Street near Watney Market. In 1916 he was conscripted into the Army and fought in the trenches at Ypres. The troops wore grotesque canvas gas masks over their heads when first the Germans and then both sides, begun to fire canisters of smothering greenish poison gas into opposing trenches. In one offensive Harry’s mask ripped. He inhaled a chestful of chlorine. He was invalided out. A bad chest affected him for the rest of his life. But Harry returned to the Front with his concertina to join the Whizz Bangs, a YMCA concert party entertaining the troops.
When the War was over, Harry worked for the Winterton Estate. He and William Whiting, Edith Wyatt’s father, planted a row of American plane trees along Cable Street. In the Second World War Wehrmacht bombs destroyed a third of Stepney including Harry’s home. His family moved next door to where we live. Six of Harry’s plane trees survived. He used to watched them swaying in the wind, 150 feet high, till the day he died.
(Also see 1906 Siddy Costin)
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