2nd Lieutenant John (Jack) Hobbs
Rank or Title
Date of Birth
8 Feb 1891
Date of Death
28 Jun 1915
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
War Memorial Location
Soldier or Civilian
The story of Second-Lieutenant John (Jack) Hobbs, the son of a Toddington butcher, was one of heroism, romance and tragedy. It culminated in the posthumous award of the Military Cross, gained for gallant and distinguished service in the field on May 31st, 1915.
The Luton News devoted many column inches to the man who enlisted in the Royal Scots as a private and rose to become a second-liutenant, fell in love with and married a women with whom their days together were so few, and died on June 28th, 1915, from wounds sustained on the battlefield.
The son of Milly Rebecca and the late William Hobbs was born on February 8th, 1891*. At the time of his birth the family, including his five brothers and a sister, were living at Frenchman's Highway, Cobblers Hill, Toddington. Ten years later, at the time of the 1901 Census, they lived in Station Road, Toddington, with John a scholar at the National School at Toddington.
On the death of his father (1906) he entered the employment of Mr Robert Smith Tomson at Bedford House, New Bedford Road, Luton, and later obtained a situation at the Liberal Club in Luton.
In September 1908 he enlisted in the 2nd Royal Scots, transferring to the 1st Battalion when it received orders for foreign service in India. Returning from India with numerous qualifications, he was promoted to a lieutenancy.
Wrote The Luton News: "Before the regiment left for India the young Jack Hobbs had met Miss Brady, a charming young lady from Maldon, Essex, and ere long they plighted their troth. But with characteristic thoroughness he was not satisfied with a mere understanding and, when the regiment left for the coral strands, he had overcome the parental reluctance of Miss Brady's parents, for the lovers were wed by special licence at a London Register** office an hour or two before he sailed.
"Both bride and bridegroom being children of the Church, they agreed that on his return there should be a second ceremony ceremony in the Church of England. Thus John Hobbs had a double incentive to success, for he knew that his career was being anxiously watched in the old country."
Returning to England in November 1914, he secured a short leave and, again by special licence, was married, this time at St Mary Bolton, Kensington.
Then he was ordered to the Front and paid the penalty for his bravery,dying on June 18th, 1915, from wounds sustained in action in Flanders [Armentieres], where he was buried.
At the time the now Mrs Helen Cote (Coote?) Hobbs [born Yarmouth, Norfolk, in 1884] was staying with her brother-in-law, Mr Charles Hobbs, at 82 Highbury Road, Luton. On June 25th she was informed that John was wounded on June 23rd, and three days later told that he had died that day from his wounds.
Major H. F. Wingate, commanding the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, wrote on June 23rd that Jack Hobbs had been hit in the head while in the trenches and was taken by ambulance to a field hospital, where his condition was still grave.
Lieut W. Harris, a "chum," wrote on the next day: "My dear Mrs Hobbs, It is with the greatest sorrow that I should have to write to you and break such sad news. Your poor Jack was seriously wounded in the head last night about 8 o'clock. We got him away at once to the hospital, where I believe an operation was performed, and which I have every reason to believe and hope was successful. At all events up till 2 o'clock today he still lived, and the doctor assures me he has every hope that he will pull through.
"I will try now and tell you how it happened, though I am afraid I am too upset to think clearly. The Germans started cheering and waving flags just before 8 o'clock, when Jack and I were standing outside his dug-out talking. I said to him: 'I'll go and warn my men to be careful. I'll be back in a moment'. I was gone I suppose five minutes, and on my way back met an officer of another regiment who me that Jack had climbed on top of his dug-out to try and see what was going on. I knew that it was risky and rushed off at once to try and stop him.
"By ill-luck I was too late and saw at once that he had been hit. I climbed up at once and got him down, bandaged him up and took him to the ambulance which was waiting, and he was taken straight to the hospital. He therefore has everything in his favour, as time in these cases means such a lot.
"I only had time to glance at the wound, which is high up and at the back of the head. There is only one wound, which points to the fact that probably the bullet struck something first and struck him a glancing blow, which I pray God is the case. He seemed quite strong when I saw him last and tried to talk, though, of course, he did not know what he was saying."
On June 26th, the sister-in-charge of the hospital wrote that Jack Hobbs' condition was very grave, and that the bullet had done considerable damage to the brain. The next day she wrote that he was not conscious and surgeons gave very little hope.
One June 29th she gave details of the end, stating that Lieut Hobbs had become weaker and had passed away at 2.30pm the previous day. Since admission he had not been conscious, so that he suffered no pain.
Messages of sympathy were sent by other comrades, and there was also one from Buckingham Palace. The Keeper of the Privy Purse wrote to Mrs Hobbs: "The King and Queen deeply regret the loss you and the Army have sustained by the death of your husband in the service of his country. Their Majesties truly sympathise with you in your sorrow."
Mrs Hobbs told The Luton News that when the first sting of the wound had softened she intended securing a place in a munitions factory***, desirous of "carrying on in some way the work he has had to leave".
* This date of birth was recorded in Jack Hobbs' admission to the National School in Toddington. The 1891 and 1901 Census records also give his year of birth as 1891, suggesting his age was 24. The Luton News report gave his age as 27, and the CWGC record gives his age as 26.
**Only the later November 1914 church wedding is recorded.
***Helen Hobbs is recorded on the CWGC website as living in Colchester. Other sites suggest she became a nurse in an Essex hospital.
[The Luton News, Thursday, July 8th, 1915]