What is the meaning of 'only' here? Does the meaning of the sentence remain same without 'only'?
Brockington recalls visiting the Forstall family last year, only to find Forstall lying on his hammock. NOT A TEACHER
(I have simplified your sentence for easier analysis.)
(1) As I type this, no one else has started. So may I have the honor? This strange construction confuses learners and some native speakers such as I.
(2) First, consider what Professors Quirk and Greenbaum said in their A Concise Grammar of Contemporary Grammar (1973).
(a) They pointed out that "I awoke one morning to find the house in an uproar" is
about the same as "When I awoke one morning, I found the house in an uproar."
(3) Now let's check Mr. L.G. Alexander's Longman English Grammar.
(a) He gives this example "We came home after our holiday to find our garden neat and tidy." He says this = We came home after our holiday and found our garden neat and tidy."
(b) He then tells us that we can add "only" to the front of the infinitive if we wish to emphasize that the event is unexpected or unwelcome.
(i) His example: He returned after the war, (only) to be told that his wife had left him.
(a) You notice that Mr. Alexander put "only" in parentheses. Therefore, it is optional.
NOTES: (1) If you use "only," most writers seem to use a comma (pause). If there is no "only," then no comma is used.
(b) Personally speaking, I do not like "He returned after the war to be told that his wife had left him." On the first quick reading, maybe it could be misinterpreted as the reason for his return! Most books reassure us that this is a clause of result.
(c) Finally, can the "only" be deleted in your posted sentence? We non-teachers have
been told not to post any answers unless we are reasonably sure that the answers are
correct. I do not have the confidence to answer this question. Along with you, I shall
wait for a teacher's accurate answer.
I typed this before I saw Moderator Bob's excellent answer.