HOBSON George 1893 – 1917

GEORGE HOBSON 1893 – 1917

14667 Private George Hobson 14th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry died of wounds 23 April 1917 and is buried at Bethune Town Cemetery.[1]  He was 23 years old and is commemorated on the Etherley War Memorial, the Roll of Honour in St. Cuthbert’s Church and Witton Park War Memorials.

Family Details

George Hobson was born 1893[2] the son of George and Julia Hobson.  There were 7 children, all born at Woodside near Witton Park, Bishop Auckland:[3]

  • Charlotte bc.1883
  • Robert William bc.1892
  • George born 1893
  • Margaret bc.1896
  • Charles bc.1897
  • Walter bc.1902
  • Lily bc.1904

In 1901, the family lived at 16 Cement Row, Woodside where father George worked as a “coke drawer.” [4] By 1911, the family lived at 3 Cement Row, Woodside and 53 years old George still worked as a “coke drawer.”  19 years old Robert was a “leveller” at the coke ovens and 17 years old George was described as a “pit lad, helping-up.” [5]

George’s older brother Robert served with the 18th Battalion, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps [service no. A/202744] and was killed in action 28 March 1918 aged 27.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial and the Witton Park War Memorial.[6]

Military Details

9 September 1914: George Hobson attested when 21 years and 1 month old.  He worked as a miner.[7] He enlisted at Bishop Auckland joining the 14th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry and was given the regimental number 14667.[8]  Initially, 14/DLI and 15/DLI formed part of the 64th Brigade of the 21st Division of Kitchener’s New Army. [9]

25 November 1915:  The battalion was transferred to the 18th Brigade, 6th Division as part of the XIV Corps, Fourth Army.

By 1916, other battalions in the 18th Brigade were:

  • 1st Bn., the West Yorkshires
  • 11th (Service) Bn., the Essex
  • 2nd Bn., DLI
  • 18th Brigade Machine Gun Company
  • 18th Trench Mortar Battery [10]

14/DLI in on the Western Front  [11]

 The War Diaries of the 14th Battalion, DLI have not been researched.

11 September 1915: Following training the battalion left Witley Camp, 14/DLI crossed the English Channel from Folkestone to Boulogne, France.  The battalion was sent to prepare for service in the line at Nielles-lez-Ardres. Private G. Hobson entered France with his battalion.[12]  Two weeks later the 21st Division commenced its march into its first experience of warfare – it was to be truly appalling.

The Battle of Loos 25 September – 8 October 1915 [13]

Having been in France for only a few days, lengthy forced marches brought the Division into the Reserve for the British assault at Loos.  The Division was sent into action 25 September 1915, whereupon it suffered appalling casualties for little gain.  The 14/DLI lost Lieut.-Col. A.S. Hamilton who died of wounds received near Bois Hugo and 2 other officers were killed, losses in the ranks amounted to 277 in this action.  Later research records 14/DLI lost 4 Officers and 54 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds between 25 September and 10 October 1915.[14].

14/DLI served on the Western Front with distinction throughout the war.  The 6th Division was involved in the trench warfare in the Ypres Salient.

2 June 1916: Private G. Hobson together with 21736 Private W. Graham, 27697 Private T. Ramsey, 18/1428 Private T. Crowe and 10000 T.R. Robinson were involved in an accident when cleaning bombs.  Private Dennett took out the pin from a bomb and it exploded causing men to be wounded.  A court of inquiry was held 11 June 1916 and 27894 Private H. Dennett was found to be “the man to blame” and was awarded 14 days F.P.No.1 (Field Punishment No. 1).  Private G. Hobson received a wound to the right leg and head which needed treatment at York.  He was discharged 3 August 1916.  He was temporarily attached to 170 Company Royal Engineers before re-joining his battalion 24 November 1916.[15]   10000 Private T.R. Robinson 14/DLI died 6 June 1916 as a result of wounds incurred and is buried at grave reference VII.B.21A Ljssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.[16]

Then followed action at the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the Battle of Morval and the Battle of Le Transloy.[17]  14/DLI was involved in the pursuit of the retreating Germans to the formidable Hindenburg Line then the Battle of Arras.

 The Battle of Arras – an overview [18]

The new French Commander in Chief, Robert Nivelle prepared his Master Plan for a new offensive against the German lines.  Nivelle’s plan was as follows:

“He would attack at the shoulders of the great German salient on either side of the Somme.  The French would take the southern Aisne sector, the Chemin des Dames, as their front of assault, while the British, by inter-Allied agreement would reopen an offensive on the northern shoulder of the Somme salient, at Arras and against Vimy Ridge.”

The objective of the British and Canadian Corps was to capture Vimy Ridge which would lead the way into the Douai Plain and (it was hoped) the un-entrenched German rear.  Then a rapid advance by the cavalry would link up with the French forces which would have broken through at Chemin des Dames, 80 miles to the south.  The British Army launched a large scale attack at Arras.  Although initially successful, it soon bogged down and became another costly affair.  The battle was composed of the following phases:

  • 9-14 April 1917 – The Battle of Vimy, The First Battle of the Scarpe
  • 23 – 24 April 1917 – The Second Battle of the Scarpe
  • 3-4 May 1917 – The Third Battle of the Scarpe
  • 11 April – 16 June 1917 – The Battle of Bullecourt

The infantry was able to shelter in the great subterranean quarries at Arras and they were brought to the front line through tunnels dug by the Army’s tunnelling companies.  Similar tunnels had been dug at Vimy Ridge for the Canadian troops.  Such preparation did not arouse suspicion amongst the Germans and von Falkenhausen, commander of the Sixth Army kept his Reserves 15 miles behind the front.   The German defences were bombarded by 2,879 guns, one for every 9 yards of the front, which delivered 2,687,000 shells – shorter in duration but double the weight of that delivered before the Battle of the Somme the previous July.

9 April:  The first day of the battle was a triumph for the Allied forces.  In a few hours the German front had been penetrated to a depth of between 1 and 3 miles, 9,000 prisoners were taken, few casualties suffered and a way forward was (apparently) cleared.  The success of the Canadians at Vimy Ridge was sensational!  But the usual inflexibility in the plan prevented further progress – a pause of 2 hours after objectives had been gained, the day was shortening and the impetus ran out allowing the Germans to bring up their reserves 10and 11 April.

The April weather was atrocious – rain, sleet, snow, relentlessly low temperatures and the shelling had turned the chalky surface into gluey mud.  The attacking troops were exhausted, a halt was called to allow casualties to be replaced and the troops to recover – losses totalled nearly 20,000 (1/3rd of casualties suffered at the first day of the Somme).

23 April:  Hostilities recommenced, the Germans had reorganised and were reinforced so could counter-attack and as a result, a month of attrition set in bringing a further 130,000 casualties for no additional gain of ground.

On the southern front, whist the Germans were caught by surprise on the Vimy-Arras sector, they were not on the French sector, Chemin-des-Dames.  Security failures had alerted the Germans to the proposed attack so their forces were prepared.  After 5 days of intensive fighting when the French suffered 130,000 casualties including 29,000 killed, the offensive was effectively abandoned.  There had been a penetration of 4 miles over the 16 mile front but German defences remained intact.  There had been no breakthrough.

The aftermath of the Nivelle’s offensive had major repercussions on the French army.  The offensive was judged to be a failure.  29 April 1917, Nivelle was replaced by Petain.  In addition, the failure punctured the French fighting spirit and precipitated what historians called “the mutinies of 1917.”

 14/DLI in action [19]

9 April:  14/DLI was not involved in the opening days of the offensive.

18 April: 14/DLI was called upon to come under the orders of the 16th Brigade.

20 April: went into the line south east of Loos on the extreme left of the battle line at the northern limit of the Canadian advance of the opening day, occupying Netley Trench.

21 April: ordered to complete the capture of Novel Alley and take Nero Trench and the concrete strong point where previously 3 attacks had failed.  Afternoon – British heavy artillery pounded the German positions.  B and C Companies detailed to attack.  The objective was captured and 2 counter attacks repulsed.  14/DLI suffered heavily from enemy shell fire both before and after the fighting to capture these trenches.

22 April 8am: Following an artillery barrage, A and D Companies advanced to take Nash Alley and the redoubt called the Dynamite Magazine.  A squad of bombers from B Company bombed up the trench and the objectives were taken.  A counter attack was repulsed about 9am.  14/DLI proceeded with the task of consolidating the captured positions.  There was little cover from sniper and machine gun fire from houses at Cite St. Laurent.  During the afternoon, 2 counter attacks were driven back.  The Germans put down a heavy artillery barrage then attacked on the left.  The troops in this part of Nash Alley were driven back as the German infantry assailed the left and bombed the barricades on the right.

“The 14th though very weak in numbers maintained the struggle for some time but had to give ground at last.  Fighting hard they fell back slowly to Novel Alley leaving only 3 badly wounded men in the hands of the enemy.”

23 April:  early morning, 14/DLI was relieved and withdrew to les Brebis.

“Losses in the ranks amounted to 231 and among the killed was 2nd Lieut. L.W. Mansell…Many honours fell to the battalion.”

 Private G. Hobson died of wounds 23 April 1917 at 33 Casualty Clearing Station.[20] Later research records 14/DLI lost 58 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds between 20 and 25 April 1917.[21]  Second Lieutenant L.W. Mansell is recorded as serving with the Derbyshire Yeomanry [22] so must have been attached to 14/DLI. Private George Hobson served a total of 2 years 22 days.[23]

Awards and Medals

Private George Hobson was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[24]

Effects and Pension

George’s father George, then living at the Pot & Glass Inn, Low Etherley received his possessions 15 October 1917 – photos, card, cigarette case, soap case and cotton bag[25] and his mother Julia, his pension.[26]


Private George Hobson is buried at grave reference VI.D.63, Bethune Town Cemetery.  Bethune is 22 miles north of Arras in the region of Pas-de-Calais, France.  The town was comparatively free from bombardment and remained an important railway and hospital centre, as well as corps and divisional headquarters.  The 33rd Casualty Clearing Station was in the town until December 1917.  The Bethune Town Cemetery contains 3,004 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.  At grave reference VI D 74 lies 14526 Private Ralph Wardle from Evenwood Gate.[27]


14667 Private George Hobson is commemorated on the Etherley and the Roll of Honour in St. Cuthbert’s Church and the Witton Park War Memorials.


 George Hobson was born in 1893 at Woodside near Witton Park and worked as a coal miner.  He volunteered for service in September 1914, joining the 14th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry and entered France with the 6th Division a year later.  His first experience of warfare would have been horrific as the battalion suffered heavy losses during the first days of the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915 in what was Kitchener’s New Army’s first encounter with German forces.  He survived this, various battles on the Somme in 1916 and engagements leading up to the Battle of Arras in April 1917.  Private G. Hobson died of wounds 23 April 1917 at 33 Casualty Clearing Station and is buried at Bethune Town Cemetery, France.  He was 23 years old and is commemorated on the Etherley War Memorial, the Roll of Honour in St. Cuthbert’s Church and Witton Park War Memorials.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10 p.222 Auckland 1893Q3

[3] 1901 & 1911 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] CWGC

[7] Army Form B.2512A

[8] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[9] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[10] http://www.1914-1918.net/6div.htm

[11] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18: the Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry”1920 Captain W. Miles various pages

[12] Medal Roll

[13] www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1915.htm

[14] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[15] Army Form B.103 Note: dates difficult to decipher

[16] CWGC

[17] http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1916.htm

[18] “First World War” J. Keegan 1998 p.349-355

[19] Miles p.137-140

[20] Army Form E.103 Casualty Form – Active Service

[21] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[22] CWGC

[23] Statement of the Services

[24] Medal Roll

[25] Army Form B.104-126

[26] Dependants’ Pension card index

[27] CWGC


HOBSON G. Headstone


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