Ernest Hoskins was born in Catford, South East London, and was the oldest of six children to Joseph and Mary Hoskins. Joseph was a landscape gardener from Devon, who sought his fortune in the capital; the family moved across the city over the years, in search of work.
Ernest found work for the merchant navy when he left school. War soon broke out, and, on 14th July 1915, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 1st Class. His service records give him as 5ft 10in (1.78m) tall, with light brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. They also confirm a date of birth as 21st July 1889, which is at odds with his census records, which suggest he was born three years earlier.
Stoker Hoskins was initially posted to HMS Pembroke – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – and spent the rest of the year there. He was then moved up river to the shore-based establishment in London known as HMS President, remaining there for eighteen months before transferring back to Kent.
Ernest seems not to have always been on the right side of the law: within days of arriving back in Chatham, he was detained for 36 days for “offering [a] forged receipt and attempting to obtain money by false pretences.”
Ernest was released on 6th May 1917, but within a couple of months, he was detained again, this time for five days for reasons unknown. By the end of July he returned to his duties.
HMS Pembroke was a busy place that summer, and temporary accommodation was needed. Chatham Drill Hall was brought into service, and the newly-released Ernest found himself billeted there.
On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out its first night air raid: Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit; Stoker Hoskins was among those killed instantly. He was just 28 years of age (according to his service records).
Ernest Hoskins was laid to rest alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.