Frederick Hobson VC

b. 23/09/1873 London. d. 18/08/1917 near Lens, France

Frederick John Hobson (1873-1917) was born on 23rd September 1873 at Norwood, South London. His father, John, married Sarah Wallace, an Irishwoman. Frederick had two siblings: Florence Louisa (born 1877) and George Henry (born 1879).

Frederick Hobson VC

Frederick was educated at Norwood School, while under the care of the Lambeth Board of Guardians. What he did after school was not known until he enlisted and served with 2nd Wiltshire Regiment from 1897. He went to South Africa in 1899 and saw action in Cape Colony, the Transvaal and Wittebergen during the Second Boer War. He was promoted to Corporal before being discharged in 1903. Frederick is reputed to have married Louise Alice Esther Moses in June or September 1904, but there is no record of the marriage. She was born in London and they met in 1903. They emigrated to Canada in 1904 and lived in Galt (now Cambridge), Ontario. Frederick and Louise had five children – George, Frederick, Albert, Florence and John.

Frederick was employed as a labourer by Dominion Canners and later became a storekeeper employed by the Galt City authorities. Early in the war, he enlisted in 39th Regiment Norfolk Rifles in Ontario. He attempted to enlist with the CEF in Galt, but was rejected and travelled to Toronto and enlisted in 20th Battalion on 10th November 1914. He sailed with the Battalion on RMS Megantic on 15th May 1915, arriving in England on 24th May.

He arrived in France on 14th September 1914, and little appeared to have happened to him of note, until he was promoted to Sergeant on 30th June 1916. In September 1916, he received a gunshot wound to his right hip and was admitted to No 4 Canadian Field Ambulance on 16th September. He was back with the Battalion within three days, and was soon attached to 255th Tunnelling Company and then to Res Company until 9th February 1917. From 1st April to 2nd June he was attached to 2nd Division Training Company.

On 18th August 1917, during the Battle of Hill 70, north west of Lens, France, during a strong enemy counter-attack a Lewis gun in a forward post in a communication trench leading to the enemy lines, was buried by a shell, and the crew, with the exception of one man, killed. Sjt. Hobson, though not a gunner, grasping the great importance of the post, rushed from his trench, dug out the gun, and got it into action against the enemy who were now advancing down the trench and across the open. A jam caused the gun to stop firing. Though wounded, he left the gunner to correct the stoppage, rushed forward at the advancing enemy and, with bayonet and clubbed rifle, single handed, held them back until he himself was killed by a rifle shot. By this time however, the Lewis gun was again in action and reinforcements shortly afterwards arriving, the enemy were beaten off.

Hobson’s body was not recovered after the battle, and he is commemorated on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. The VC was presented to his sister Florence by Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire, Governor-General of Canada, in front of the Ontario Legislative Building, Toronto on 8th May 1918. While Frederick was away at the front, Louise became involved with a neighbour, Thomas Thorn, and they married on 15th April 1916. All of Frederick’s five children were later adopted by Thorn and assumed his surname. Louise and Thomas later had four children of their own.

In addition to the VC, he was also awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 with three clasps, King’s South Africa Medal 1901-1902 with two clasps, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, and Victory Medal 1914-19. Florence Brown, Frederick’s sister, presented the medals to Fort Malden National Historic Park, Amhertsburg, Ontario in 1959. The two South African medals were donated by Florence to a charity auction. The remainder of the medals including the VC were purchased in June 1974 by the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa where they are held.