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.