Two local men lost their lives on active service on 29th September 1918 – 38-year-old Private Allan Hobbins, 4th Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps, and 20-year-old Second Lieutenant Christopher Ernest Neale, 10th Battalion, attached 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment.
Allan Hobbins was born in Shirley in March 1884 and was the seventh of the eleven known children of parents Abraham (a brickmaker) and Louisa (née Cubberley) who had married at St Martin’s Church, Birmingham in 1869. Curiously, birth entries for all the children give the mother’s maiden name as Kite rather than Cubberley, although the marriage certificate records that Louisa Cubberley was a spinster when she married Abraham Hobbins.The 1911 census indicates that the couple had 12 children, of whom three had died by 1911.
All of the children were given names beginning with “A” – Annie Elizabeth (born 1870), Albert (born 1872) , Alick Abraham (1874-1909), Ada Ellen (born 1876), Alice (born 1878), Amy (born 1881), Allan (born 1884), Arthur (1886-1887), Agnes (1887-1889), Aggie Louisa (born 1889) and Amenia (born 1892).
Allan is known to have attended Shirley School from 1887.
The three boys all became regular soldiers with the Cheshire Regiment. The first to enlist was eldest brother, Albert, who was baptised on 21st July 1872 at St Alphege Church as Albert Abraham Hobbins. He served in the Cheshire Regiment 1889-1911, rising to the rank of Colour Sergeant Major and serving in India 1891-1895 and 1898-1902. He was discharged in January 1911, giving his intention of residing in Ventnor, Isle of Wight, where his wife and children were still living in 1918. His conduct was described as exemplary and he was considered “sober, reliable, trustworthy, and intelligent.” In 1912, he emigrated to Canada, and joined the Edmonton police force. In January 1915, aged 42, and recorded as Albert Keefe Hobbins, he joined the 49th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, and was created Lieutenant and Adjutant. He had been promoted Major by the time he was awarded the D.S.O. in 1916. Shortly afterwards, he received command of the 3rd Entrenching Battalion, and was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel at the same time. He died in Alberta in 1937. His son, Albert Frank Hobbins (born 1901) joined the Royal Flying Corps in January 1918 and served with the RAF until 1927.
The second brother, Alick, joined the Cheshire Regiment in January 1892, aged 18. He served in India 1894-1904, and was discharged there in February 1904 after completing 12 years’ service. He rejoined the Army in September 1904, as a Gunner with the Royal Field Artillery. He had the intention of completing 21 years’ service but was discharged in August 1908 as medically unfit, and died the following year.
Allan, the youngest of the three brothers, became a bricklayer but then enlisted in the Worcestershire Regiment in 1900 before being transferred to the Cheshire Regiment in 1902. He served in South Africa and India before being transferred to the Reserves in 1908. In January 1910, he married Alice Maud Elvins at St James’ Church, Shirley. Their son, Alick Thomas Hobbins, was born in Kings Norton in December 1910, presumably named after Allan’s brother who had died the previous year. Alick Thomas Hobbins died in British Columbia in December 1984, aged 73.
Allan Hobbins emigrated to Canada in January 1913, giving his occupation as a weaver. He volunteered for active service with the Canadian Machine Gun Corps on 5th November 1914, although he gave his date of birth as 25th March 1880, which was four years earlier than his actual date of birth. He is buried at Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, France and is commemorated locally on Shirley war memorial.
Christopher Ernest Neale was born in King’s Heath on 30th July 1898 and was the second of the three children of parents Christopher Ernest (a tea merchant) and Florence Annie (née Preece) who had married in the bride’s home town of Burton-on-Trent in 1894.
By 1911, the family was living in Acocks Green, although the two boys – Christopher and older brother, George Raymond (1897-1972) were both boarders at Hanley Castle Grammar School, Worcester , leaving their 10-year-old sister, Florence Mildred, with their parents in the family home. Admission registers for the school on the Find My Past website show that Christopher joined the school on 29th April 1909, having previously attended Old Edgbaston Church School.
Christopher left Hanley Castle School on 15th December 1911 and went onto Solihull Grammar School, where he was a member of the Officers’ Training Corps. He left the school in 1913 to join the family business – Neale’s Tea Stores.
Christopher joined the Coldstream Guards in March 1917 before being gazetted to the Worcesters in May 1918. He went to France on 8th July 1918 and was killed in action during the Battle of St Quentin Canal.
An obituary in the Birmingham Daily Mail 11th October 1918 notes that
he was an all-round athlete, winning many school prizes for running and swimming, and was a crack shot both with rifle and revolver, and was made marksman.
He was one of 124 men from the Worcestershire Regiment killed on 29th September 1918 and he is buried at Pigeon Ravine Cemetery, Epehy, France. He is commemorated locally on the roll of honour of Copt Heath Golf Club but his name appears to be missing from Solihull School war memorial. His name is included on the First World War memorial of Hanley Castle Grammar School (now Hanley Castle High School)and he is mentioned on his parents’ gravestone at St Alphege Church, pictured at the top of this page.
By the time of the 1939 Register, his parents had moved to Solihull and were living at 33 Broad Oaks Road. Christopher Neale (senior) was listed as the General Manager (retired) of multiple grocery stores. They were still living at the address at the time of Christopher’s death in 1951.
If you have any further information about either of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977