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Lieutenant John Collinson Hobson


116th Machine Gun Company, 116th Infantry Brigade, 39th Division, Age 23, Killed 31 July 1917. Menin Gate Memorial Panel 56. Son of Thomas Frederick and Mary Innes Hobson, Julianstow, Headington Hill, Oxford. His father was a barrister, and for many years a Progressive Member of the London County Council.

 

John was educated at Westminster School between 1917 to 1912 and served in the Officer Training Corps with the rank of Sergeant. He was head of his House between 1911 to 1912, he shot at Bisley in the School Eight in 1911 and boxed for the School at Aldershot in the same year. He played cricket for the First Eleven in the annual match against Charterhouse in 1912. He received a History Scholarship to Christ Church College, Oxford, and took an active part in university life, rowing for his college.

 

On the outbreak of the war he applied for a commission but was rejected on the grounds that he had not served in the University OTC and therefore enlisted as a private. He obtained his commission by joining his father’s old Battalion, the Inns of Court OTC, and after serving in the ranks for a few days was gazetted in September 1914 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 12th Battalion Royal Scots. He had always wanted to serve in a Scottish Regiment, being of Scottish descent. In early 1915 he was promoted to Lieutenant and on completing their training at Bramshott the Battalion went to France in May 1915 were they joined the 9th (Scottish) Division. He had a special interest in Machine Guns and acted as the Brigade Machine Gun Officer and on the 28 June 1916 he was ordered to attend a course at the Machine Gun School at Grantham. He returned to the front in September 1916 in command of a Machine Gun Section within the 116th Company. They went on to fight in the Battle of the Somme, including fighting on the Ancre, The Battle of Thiepval Ridge, The Battle of the Ancre heights and the capture of the Schwaben Redoubt and Stuff Trench.

 

On the 31 July 1917, the 116th Machine Gun Company were providing fire support to the Brigade advance as part of the opening phase in the Third Battle of Ypres. They were in position opposite Mouse Trap Farm and had advanced along Buff’s Road to the area known as Corner Cot on British maps.


Linesman Map

At 9am John was killed while choosing positions to set up his section the War Diary recording:


War Diary 31 July 1917

His grave was lost and he is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial.

 

Lieutenant Taylor who had gone forward with him later wrote: ‘We were heavily shelled long before the push-off, and were smothered with dirt thrown up by shells bursting a few yards away. Owing to the darkness, the barrage put up by the Hun and the fact that our landmark was completely obliterated, we lost direction and struck a road which took us along under the enemy barrage the whole way. Then we had to push on through the barrage again until we reached our destination. All this time he had been strolling about quite unconcernedly, as if he were out on a pleasure jaunt, cheering his men up, and setting a splendid example.’

 

Sergeant Humphries his section Sergeant  wrote: ‘He was one of the best officers the section ever had, always a cheery word for everybody. The men had such confidence in him and would go anywhere and do anything ordered by him with good spirit. In the trenches, where so much is required of men, he would be around his guns, regardless of any danger to himself. He was killed just as we reached our objective, and with his going the men seemed to lose heart. As long as there are men who were under his command he will always be spoken of with the greatest respect.

 

From his poem War:

 

WAR

 

But I shall still be dreaming

Of Scottish boys I knew,

Marching in dreams to Ploegstreet

And drinking wine with you.

 

And where you too lie dreaming

Beneath the turf so wet,

Remember me, remember,

For I shall not forget!

 

Ay, silver days are passing,

And golden days have gone

When war was all a pastime

Of battle lost and won.

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