Lt Col Edgar Mobbs DSO

Rugby

'400 men including many rugby players from Saints and Bedford as well as supporters and ordinary Northamptonshire men joined the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment. The battalion was also known as the “Mobbs Own” or “Sportsman’s Battalion”.'

Submitted by Louise Hannam-Jones, History Curator at Northampton Museums and Art Gallery

Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Roberts Mobbs, DSO was born on 29 June 1882 at his family home in Billing Road, Northampton. The family moved to Bedford in 1892 and Edgar joined Bedford Modern School. Mobbs’ sporting career began at school where he enjoyed a variety of sports such as cricket, hockey, tennis and rugby. Unfortunately a knee injury at school meant that Mobbs never received his Rugby Colours. At the age of 20, Edgar started to play Rugby again but only occasionally, when pressed by Olney, where the family had moved to live. He also turned out for Weston Turks and Northampton Heathens. Spotted by a member of the Saints Committee at Olney in 1905, Mobbs came to play for the Northampton Saints in 1905. He soon became the town’s favourite player. He was appointed captain of the Saints in 1907 and continued for the next six seasons.

When war was declared in 1914, Edgar Mobbs was 32 years old. When trying to enlist, he was declined on the grounds of age. Mobbs refused to be beaten however, and decided to recruit his own company of men to fight in the war. 264 men including many rugby players from Saints and Bedford as well as supporters and ordinary Northamptonshire men joined the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment. The battalion was also known as the “Mobbs Own” or “Sportsman’s Battalion” and Mobbs was soon promoted to sergeant. Following this, Edgar was commissioned Lieutenant in October 1914 and then Captain while the battalion was still in training at Shoreham, Sussex.

The 7th battalion went to France in September 1915 where the citizen soldiers faced some of the German army’s most experienced troops. They were repeatedly attacked and Mobbs commanded the battalion for the first time at Loos as those senior to him fell. The 7th battalion fought a series of battles in the war, including the Somme in August 1916, and Arras and Messines in 1917 where members of the Saints were killed and Mobbs was wounded. By this time Mobbs was Lieutenant Colonel and in the New Year’s Honours of 1st January 1917, Edgar Mobbs was awarded a Distinguished Service Order.
The final battle for Mobbs however was to be at Zillebeke during the Third battle of Ypres (Battle of Passchendaele), in Belgium. On 31st July 2017, at Shrewsbury Forest, Mobbs found his men were held up by a Machine Gun post and swiftly lead an attack on it. It was here that Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Mobbs was killed in action.

Edgar Mobbs’ body was sadly was never recovered but he is remembered for his brave actions on the Menin Gate Memorial. Back in Northampton, Mobbs’ name is proudly celebrated. On 10th February 1921 the first Edgar Mobbs Memorial Match was played at Franklins Gardens. The memorial match continues to this day and it is played on alternate years at Northampton and Bedford. Also in 1921, a bust of Edgar Mobbs was unveiled on a memorial on Northampton Market Square. It was moved to the Memorial Gardens in Abington Square, Northampton just before the Second World War, where it remains today. In 2017 a bronze statue was erected in the Courtyard of Northampton Guildhall as a centenary memorial in honour of Northampton’s sporting hero of the First World War.