HOBBS, Sir Joseph John Talbot (1864-1938)


HOBBS, Sir Joseph John Talbot (1864-1938)
general
was born at Chelsea, London, on 24 August 1864, the son of Joseph and Frances Hobbs. Educated at St Mary's church school, Merton, Surrey, he joined the volunteer artillery in 1883. He came to Australia in 1887 and practised his profession as an architect at Perth. Joining the volunteer artillery as a gunner he rose to the command of the battery in 1897, in 1906 was a lieutenant-colonel commanding a West Australian mixed brigade, and in 1913 was colonel commanding the 22nd infantry brigade. On four occasions he went to England and did intensive courses in artillery training with the British army. He was thus thoroughly equipped when war broke out, and on 8 August 1914 was selected by General Bridges (q.v.) to command the 1st Australian divisional artillery. After training in Egypt he was at the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, and was soon ashore searching for positions for his guns. He was in command of the artillery until 11 November 1915 when he was struck down with dysentery and invalided to Cairo. He was then promoted brigadier-general and made a C.B. In March 1916 he went with the first Australian division to France, and was in command of the Australian artillery when Pozières was captured. In December 1916 he was given command of the 5th division and was made a major-general. This division was in the thick of the fighting in the spring of 1917, and in September did magnificent work at Polygon Wood. It was a great piece of staff work in which every officer and man fitted into his allotted place, did his work with distinction, and together achieved a great victory. Hobbs was created a K.C.B. on 1 January 1918. At the end of April his division fought a great fight at the second battle for Villers-Bretonneux, which probably contributed to the abandonment of the German operations towards Amiens. Towards the end of May General Monash (q.v.) was placed in command of the Australian Army Corps, and Hobbs became the senior divisional commander in the corps. His division was then given a well-earned rest but took a worthy share in the great counter attack which began on 8 August. It did not take a leading part in the capture of Mont St Quentin, one of the greatest and most important feats of the war, but Monash, in his The Australian Victories in France, stated that he was "concerned . . . that the fine performance of the Fifth Division should not be underrated. The circumstances under which general Hobbs was called upon to intervene in the battle, at very short notice, imposed upon him, personally, difficulties of no mean order". One of his tasks it may be mentioned was the crossing of the Somme in the face of strong opposition, and when Hobbs sent a message to the men of his war-worn division on its beginning a rest period on 8 September, he was able to say that they had "earned imperishable fame for their gallantry and valour". It was but a short rest, for they were in the line again later on in the same month, and Hobbs was making careful plans for the attack on the Hindenburg line which was successfully breached by the 3rd and 5th divisions on 30 September and 1 October. The Australians had done the work allotted to them and were not called upon to fight again. Monash was put in charge of the repatriation and demobilization of the Australian troops, and Hobbs succeeded him in the command of the Army Corps until this was completed in May 1919.
Hobbs returned to Perth and resumed his work as an architect. With his partners he was responsible for many important buildings in Perth including the state war memorial, St George's College, Crawley, the Temperance and General and Royal Insurance buildings. He was also architect for the Church of England diocese of Perth. He interested himself very much in the claims of returned soldiers, in the university, the Church of England, and in many sporting and social organizations. He was also responsible for the erection of battle memorials to four Australian divisions. He died at sea on 21 April 1938 while on his way to Europe to attend the unveiling of the Australian war memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. He married in 1890 Edith Ann Hurst, who survived him with two sons and three daughters. He was created K.C.M.G. in January 1919. He was mentioned in dispatches six times and received many war honours. After the war he was promoted lieutenant-general.
Hobbs was a short and slight man, whose ordinary life was that of a successful citizen who had a full realization of his responsibilities to the society of which he was a member. He was capable and self-sacrificing and measured his life by high standards. From his youth he seems to have realized that some day his country might need him as a soldier, and he set to work to qualify himself for the highest positions. This knowledge was invaluable in France, and when he became a divisional commander his kindliness, tact and firmness gained the affection and respect of his men, while his carefulness of preparation and knowledge made him an excellent divisional commander. Monash said of him that he "succeeded fully as the Commander of a Division by his sound common sense and his sane attitude towards every problem that confronted him". To this may be added the eulogy of general Sir Brudenell White (q.v.) "he was not only a soldier, he was also a great citizen, and a great Christian gentleman . . . who knew none other than the straight path".
The West Australian, 22 and 23 April 1938; The Argus, Melbourne, 22 April 1938; C. E. W. Bean, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, vols. I, III, IV and V; A. D. Ellis, The Story of the Fifth Australian Division; Sir John Monash, The Australian Victories in France, 1918; Sir Brudenell White, The Argus, Melbourne, 14 May 1938.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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