Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hospital Way author KiA - Robert Mearns Hobbs


6850 Private Robert Mearns Hobbs of the 1/5th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was not from Chailey but he was a patient at Beechlands and left two entries in Nurse Oliver’s album. One is a drawing in crayons which depicts a blind girl standing against a rock on the shoreline. It is signed “RM Hobbs, 5th S.R. With Good Wishes”. The second entry is a poem entitled The Hospital Way (below).


Unfortunately, I know little about Robert Hobbs. He was born in Maryhill, Glasgow about 1895 and was the son of John & Ann Hobbs of 24 Campbell St, Maryhill, Glasgow. The 1901 Scottish census shows Robert (aged 5), his brother David (aged 7) and infant brother John (aged 1) living at 186 Church Street, Maryhill, Glasgow. His father is recorded as a 34-year-old policeman, born in England; his mother his noted as a 30-year-old native of Huntly, Aberdeenshire. All three children were born in Glasgow. It must have had a tough job for John Hobbs working the streets of Glasgow; bad enough to be a policeman, let alone an English one in Maryhill.

Robert was a territorial soldier who had enlisted in Glasgow before the war and was serving with the 1/5th Cameronians. He arrived in France with the battalion on 5th November 1914 and remained with it certainly until 5th October 1917 when he wrote his will. His medal index card (reproduced above) shows his entitlement to the 1914 Star as well as the British War and Victory Medals.

Rifleman Hobbs was probably wounded in one of the Somme battles in 1916 but obviously recovered sufficiently to be posted back to his battalion. When the Territorial Force was renumbered in February 1917 he was given a new number: 200362. This number falls within the block of numbers (200001-240000) allocated to the 5th Scottish Rifles.

I am guessing that Robert Hobbs wrote his will in England just prior to being sent abroad again and at some point shortly thereafter he was posted to A Company of the 1st Scottish Rifles. It was whilst serving with this regular battalion (in the 19th Brigade of the 33rd Infantry Division) that he was killed in action on 28th November 1917. He is buried in White House Farm Cemetery, Ypres grave ref: II D 3.

In November 1917 the battalion was in the line in the Warneton (Messines) sector. It left by bus for Ypres on the 14th and then marched to Menin Road area. A temporary camp was established there but due to heavy shelling, the battalion moved to a new camp in the Potijze area.

On the 24th, the battalion moved into the Passchendaele sector where enemy shelling was reported as heavy around Crest Farm and Passchendaele. On the 27th, a wet day, the battalion diarist reported that shelling was again heavy and the ground bad. The battalion was relieved by the 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers and went back to support. Three companies were at Hamburg Trench and one at Abraham Heights.

On the 28th, the enemy shelled Hamburg Trench early in the morning and this was presumably when Robert was killed. He was one of three 1st Cameronians men killed on this day. The following day the battalion was relieved by the 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps and went back to camp at St Jean.

White House Farm is located north east of Ypres. The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s website has this to say about it:

White House Cemetery was begun in March 1915 and used until April 1918 by units holding this part of the line. It was enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields around Ypres (now Ieper) and from a number of small burial grounds in the area. There are now 1,163 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 323 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 16 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of 28 casualties who were buried in other cemeteries but whose graves could not be found on concentration. The cemetery also contains eight Second World War burials, all dating from May 1940. The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

Robert Hobbs’ last resting place is a peaceful plot situated towards the rear of the cemetery. Two artillerymen lie next to him. The words on his tombstone read:

200362 PRIVATE
R M HOBBS
THE CAMERONIANS (SCO RIF)
28TH NOVEMBER 1917 AGE 22

NEARER MY GOD TO THEE

Medal index card courtesy of Ancestry.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Remembering Arthur Turner - KiA 89 years ago today


According to the 1901 census, seven year Arthur Turner was born at Ringmer, Sussex although Soldiers Died In The Great War (SD) notes his place of birth as Little Horsted, Sussex. At the time the census was taken, Arthur was living with his parents Henry (46) and Elizabeth (46) at South Street, Chailey. Henry had been born in Ringmer and was working as a farm labourer. Elizabeth had been born at Fletching.

Arthur enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment at Lewes, Sussex and was given the number G/21022. Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions him in June 1917, recording him as Turner, Pte A, 3rd Royal Sussex. These details then appear every month up to and including September 1917. In December 1917 he appears in the magazine’s Roll of Honour as: Pte A Turner, 8th Royal Sussex Pioneers, killed in action, Nov 26th 1917 in France.

SD and The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s Roll of Honour (CWGC) note Arthur’s date of death as 27th November 1917, SD stating that he died of wounds. CWGC notes that at the time of his death he was serving with D Company, 8th Royal Sussex and that he was 24 years old. CWGC also notes that he was the son of Henry and Elizabeth Turner of White Lodge, Roeheath, Chailey, Lewes.

The 8th Royal Sussex Battalion was a New Army battalion formed at Chichester in September 1914. It was a pioneer battalion attached to the 54th Brigade in the 18th Division.
The 18th Divisional history has nothing to say about the actual date on which Arthur Turner was killed but it describes the misery of the division’s position in some detail. November 1917 saw it holding fast at Houthulst Forest north of Ypres, “a flat, low-lying 600 acres of broken stumps and wreckage , a swamp with many a deep and treacherous hole to trap the unwary walker and let him in up to the neck… It was mud that stank: when the rain ceased the nostrils had to accept a faded musty smell that hung in the air five miles behind the line – a smell that told of desolation and decay, of gas shells, of dead men.”

Arthur Turner, commemorated on Chailey’s war memorial, is buried at Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinghe. The inscription on his grave stone reads: THE LORD KNOWETH THEM / THAT ARE HIS.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Alfred Agate - a post Armistice casualty

Alfred Albert Agate was born in 1894, his birth recorded on page 171 of the Cuckfield (Sussex) register (2b) in December of that year.

Alfred was the eldest son of Albert and Louisa Agate and was named after his grandfather. In 1901, the family was living at Glebe Cottage, Streat, Sussex, is father making a living as a Farm Labourer. Alfred (aged six) had two sisters and a brother: Daisy May (three), Florence Esther (two) and Henry Robert (five months).

In October 1914, Chailey Parish Magazine notes an Alfred Agate serving his King and Country. It is unclear however, whether this is Alfred Agate or his father Albert who is also listed as Alfred up until September 1915. Alfred would have been 19 when war was declared, his father 44. It seems more probable that Alfred, a young single man would have rushed to join up than his father who was getting on in years.

In October 1915 the magazine notes that Agate, Dvr A (jun) is serving with the Royal Field Artillery in France. From December 1916 until November 1918, the entry simply reads, Agate, Dvr A (jun), RFA.

Alfred Agate survived the duration of the war only to die eight days after the Armistice. In January 1919, his name was added to the Roll of Honour which appeared in Chailey’s Parish Magazine. It read: Driver A Agate, RFA, died sickness, Nov 19th 1918 in France. He was 23 years old and had served his King and county for over four years.

Alfred Agate does not appear to be mentioned in Soldiers Died In The Great War but the information held on him by The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission fills in further detail.

At the time of his death he was 8531 Driver Alfred Albert Agate and was serving with C Battery in the 62nd Brigade of The Royal Field Artillery. He is buried in Douai British Cemetery, France.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Hobden sacrifice


Owen Hobden was born at Chailey in 1881, his birth registered at Lewes in the December quarter of that year.

He appears on the 1891 census living with his family at Fount Hill, Newick. The household comprised Richard Hobden (head, married, aged 36, working as a gardener in domestic service), his wife Eliza Hobden (aged 37) and their five children: Frederick Hobden (an 11 year old scholar), Owen (aged nine), Minnie Hobden (aged seven), George Hobden (aged four) and Richard Hobden (aged one).

I have been unable to locate Frederick or Minnie on the 1901 census but the rest of the family was still living at Fount Hill, Newick. Richard (aged 47) is noted as an agricultural labourer. Living with him were Eliza and four children: Owen (aged 19, working as a painter), George (aged 14, working as an agricultural labourer), Richard (aged 11) and Alfred Hobden aged eight.

Little is known about Owen. He first appears in Chailey Parish Magazine in July 1917 where he is noted simply as Hobden, Sapper O, RE. This information is then repeated monthly up to December 1918. In January 1919 his details appear in the Roll of Honour section, noting that he died of sickness on 13th November 1918.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Debt of Honour Register confirms his date of death (two days after the armistice) and adds that he was 286308 Sapper Owen Hobden of the 106th Field Company, Royal Engineers. He was also the husband of Alice Hobden (nee Finney, who he had married at Newick in 1908) and the father of Jack Leonard Hobden and Herbert O (probably Owen) Hobden. The CWGC notes his former address as 2, Longhurst Cottage, North Chailey

Chailey resident Mick Pateman recalls: “Jack and Herbert Hobden were his sons and they used to live in North Chailey and they more or less grew up with me. I knew that they’d lost their father in the First World War but that’s all I knew. Jack got killed in the Second World War in France and then his mother moved away to London and I haven’t seen them since.”

It is possible that Owen was an early victim of the flu pandemic that swept Europe. He is buried at St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen; reference: S III AA 9. His son, John Leonard Hobden, was killed in action on 16th July 1944 and is commemorated on panel 16, column 3 of the Bayeux Memorial in France. It is noted that he was the son of Owen and Alice Hobden and the husband of Olive Ruby Hobden of Hammersmith, London.

Owen’s brothers also did their bit for King and Country during the First World War. Frederick certainly attested for service but whether he actually served or not I am unsure. There is no mention of him in Chailey’s parish magazine apart from the information that he attested. The National Archives gives a couple of possibilities with 19875 Private Frederick J Hobden of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment (Sherwood Foresters) and 3231 Sapper Frederick J Hobden of The Royal Engineers Transport and further research is necessary to determine whether either of these men is the Frederick mentioned above. Of the two, and given Owen’s regiment, the Royal Engineers connection is the most compelling.

Richard Hobden enlisted at Chichester and, judging by his army service number 25073, was posted to a New Army battalion of The Royal Fusiliers. At some point he transferred to the East Surrey Regiment and it was whilst serving with the 13th Battalion as 30549 Private Richard Hobden that he was killed in action on 26th November 1917. He is commemorated on the Cambrai memorial at Louverval.

George Hobden, according to information on the Hobden Heritage website, lost an arm during the war and was, in 1920, living at 48 Portland Street, Brighton. The National Archives gives 12 possibilities for George Hobden and again, further research is necessary to determine his regimental details.

It seems likely that Alfred Hobden also served during the war but again, I have no information regarding this.

Eliza Hobden died in 1920 at Newick. Her husband then moved to 5 Abinger Road, Portslade, Sussex and died there following an accident on 11th December 1934. He was eighty years old.

It is a quirk of the times that only Frederick and Owen Hobden are mentioned in Reverend Jellicoe’s parish magazine but the reason appears straightforward. Of the six Hobden children, they alone were born in Chailey parish. Although Newick neighbours Chailey, it fell outside parish boundaries and Reverend Jellicoe, although he appears to have made exceptions elsewhere, obviously did not feel that the other serving Hobden boys, warranted inclusion.

Nevertheless, with two sons killed and a third permanently disabled, the family paid a heavy price during the Great War.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Arthur, Henry John and Hebert Langridge

The 1914-1918 biographies of Arthur Langridge, Henry John Langridge and Herbert Langridge have been updated on my website. I believe that Arthur (who was awarded the MSM) and Herbert, both artillerymen, were brothers. Stories of all three men can be accessed by clicking on the links above.

The Hall brothers of Chailey

I have updated the pages on Charles Hall, George Hall and Harry Hall of Chailey. Charles and George were career soldiers who were already serving in the army when war was declared. Harry enlisted later on and was wounded twice according to Chailey's parish magazine.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Funnell, Gibbs and Gibson updated

I have updated the biographies of three more men; details below.

Henry Edgar Funnell
This man appears in Chailey Parish Magazine as Edgar Funnell, E Funnell and H Funnell. At least I believe that all three are one and the same man. I have updated his page to include details of his ASC number and also information taken from the 1891 and 1901 census returns.

Arthur Gibbs
I have added two possible army service numbers for this man who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).

Richard Gibson
I have made some more tentative guesses about this man's identity and his WW1 service but still need to do more work in order to confirm the assumptions I have made.

Charles Hodges: Died at home 8th Nov 1918

Charles Hodges does not appear in Chailey’s parish magazine but Soldiers Died in The Great War notes that he was born in Chailey. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour Register however, notes that he was the “Son of Alfred Hodges; husband of Nellie Hodges, of 6, Melbourne St., Brighton. Born at Brighton.”

Soldiers Died notes that he was living in Brighton and enlisted at Brighton and records him as 38692 Private Charles Hodges of the 3rd Essex Regiment. He died at home, three days before the Armistice, on 8th November 1918 aged 36 and is buried at Brighton (Lewes Road) Borough Cemetery (see left).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Frederick Drummond - Killed in East Africa

Frederick John Drummond was born at Eastbourne, Sussex on 15th June 1891, his birth registered in Eastbourne District in the September quarter of that year.

He was the eldest son of Major John William Ainslie Drummond (1857-1936) and Florence Charlotte Drummond (nee Blencowe, 1859-1944). Frederick does not appear in Chailey Parish Magazine’s monthly roll of serving men but his name is included on the village war memorial and on a memorial tablet in the now redundant St Mary’s Church, Chailey.

Frederick's connection with Chailey appears to have been through his association with the Blencowe family and, given their influence in local affairs, it seems quite possible that John Ingham Blencowe, John Campion Blencowe and Frances Isabel Blencowe (amongst others) would have exerted sufficient pressure to ensure that their nephew was properly commemorated.

Frederick had three brothers and sisters: Hester Katherine Drummond, Agnes Harriet Drummond and Francis William Drummond (b. 4th September 1894). Frederick appears on the 1901 census as a nine year old pupil at Evelyn’s School, Hillingdon and was later educated at Eton College (1905-1910).

Before the First World War he settled as a farmer in British East Africa (now Kenya) and in August 1914, joined up with The East African Mounted Rifles (Bowker’s Horse) as 126 Trooper Frederick J Drummond. He was killed in action on 3rd November 1914 at Longido Hills and is commemorated on the Nairobi British and Indian Memorial at Nairobi, Kenya.

His name appears in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour where it is noted that his father’s address was 27 Stanhope Gardens London S.W, and Hollycombe, Englefield Green. The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s Debt of Honour Register gives the additional information that he was the son of Major John Drummond of Beedcote, Horsham, Sussex. There is no mention of Frederick John Drummond in Soldiers Died in the Great War.

On Tuesday 10th November 1914, under the headline, LOSSES IN BRITISH EAST AFRICA, The Times reported that "Mr Frederick John Drummond, who was 23 years of age, was the eldest son of Major and Mrs John Drummond of 27, Stanhope Gardens."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Additional info added on six of Chailey's men

I've updated the biographies of six of Chailey's men; in the case of George Page and John Frederick Page, identifying service numbers for them. This will make the search for their service records a good deal easier. There are still many men on my site though, for whom I have no information. Whilst the publication of their names alone commemorates their sacrifice (and also allows internet search engines to find them) it would be nice to add a little biographical detail about them. If you can help me fill in gaps about any of the individuals mentioned on my site, please do contact me.

The other four biographies updated yesterday are those of H Campkin, John Beard, Sidney Best and William Burchett.