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The Man Behind the Medals: Private Henry Hobbs

The Man Behind the Medals 

In this blog series, SOFO Museum's Research volunteers look at the stories behind some of the medal sets in the museum's collection, from those that can be seen on a visit in our dedicated Medals display to some of those that are still tucked away in the archive.

While medals will tell you a little bit about a soldier's service, it's only with further research that their full story can be revealed! SOFO's Research volunteers respond to enquiries we receive through our Research Service, helping people find out more about their relatives who served in the county regiments, and raising funds to support the museum in the process. Using a combination of the museum's records and those available elsewhere, they piece together stories like this one.

3519 Private Henry Hobbs

Henry William Hobbs was born in 1869 in Tonbridge, Kent, the son of Henry & Ann Hobbs. By 1881, the family (Henry had three sisters) had moved to Hastings where Henry’s father worked as a railway guard.

Henry joined the Oxfordshire Light Infantry in Oxford on 8 th Dec 1890, with his record showing he was 5ft 5 inches tall, weighed 130lb, had brown hair and grey eyes and had tattoos on his left forearm. After initial training at the Oxford Barracks, Pte Hobbs was posted to the 1st Battalion based in Gosport.

However, on the 9 th Oct 1891 Pte Hobbs was transferred to 2nd Battalion and embarked for India. On arrival there, he then proceeded to join the 52nd (as the 2nd Battalion was still often called, in reference to the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot) in Burma, arriving there on 16 th Nov 1891.

He later moved with the 52 nd to Peshawar on the NW Frontier, taking part in the Tirah Campaign with the Expeditionary Force and the Mohmand Field Force against the Afridi tribesmen with the Peshawar Column. Pte Hobbs returned to Great Britain in February 1899, being transferred back to the 1 st Battalion, Oxfordshire Light Infantry – or the '43rd' as they were known (in reference to the 43rd (Monmouthshire) Regiment of Foot that was amalgamated with the 52nd to form the Oxfordshire Light Infantry).

His records indicate that his service period expired shortly after the transfer, but that he re-joined the 43rd in early December as the Army expanded rapidly to meet the Emergency in South Africa. Hence it was with the 43rd that he sailed for South Africa in December 1899, taking part in the Relief of Kimberley, the Battle at Paardeberg and the actions around Driefontein.

A framed print from the museum collection depicting the Battle of Modder River. Though Pte. Hobbs sailed for South Africa shortly after this battle, the would go on to take part in a number of other key actions with the Oxfordshire Light Infantry

The 43 rd left South Africa in October 1902, but Pte Hobbs had left a little earlier in August 1902 as his release date approached. He left the Army on 7th December 1902, having served
some 12 years.
After leaving the Army, Henry Hobbs married Elizabeth Whittaker in Hastings in 1908. The 1911 Census records them still living there, with Henry working as a carman.

For his service, Henry Hobbs was awarded:
India GS Medal with Clasps for the Punjab Frontier & The Tirah
QSA Medal 1899 with Clasps for Kimberley, Paardeberg & Driefontein
KSA Medal 1901 with Clasps for South Africa 1901 and 1902

The set of medals awarded to Pte Henry Hobbs, in the SOFO Museum collection

The set of medals awarded to Pte Henry Hobbs, in the SOFO Museum collection

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