Who's Who - Sir Talbot Hobbs

Joseph John Talbot Hobbs (1864-1938), a pre-war architect, served with Australian forces in command positions during World War One.

Born in London on 24 August 1864 the son of a journeyman joiner, Hobbs was educated in Surrey before taking up employment as a builder's draftsman.  Both Hobbs and the builder, John Hurst, determined to seek employment in Australia and consequently migrated in 1887.

Once in Australia Hobbs established his own practice as an architect, becoming its senior partner in 1905 and serving as president of the Western Australian Institute of Architects from 1909-11.

Hobbs' military career began at a young age.  After joining the 1st Cinque Ports Artillery Volunteers in 1883 he signed up with the Volunteer Field Artillery in 1887, receiving a commission in 1889.  In 1903 he was placed in command of the 1st (Western Australian) Field Battery, Australian Field Artillery.

Hobbs' military training brought him back to England on four separate occasions, often at his own expense, in 1897, 1902, 1906 and 1913.  In the latter year he was given command of the 22nd Infantry Brigade with the rank of Colonel.

With the outbreak of war in August 1914 Hobbs was chosen by William Bridges to command 1st Division Artillery, although he never assumed full command until it reached Egypt en route for Gallipoli.  For a brief period Hobbs assumed overall command of 1st Division from October-November 1915 when its commander, Brigadier-General Walker, suffered injury.  In November 1915 Hobbs was himself evacuated from Gallipoli suffering from dysentery.

Returning from recuperation to retake command of 1st Division Artillery, Hobbs oversaw its expansion to sixteen batteries in Egypt in March 1916.  He travelled with it to the Western Front where it quickly saw action at Pozieres; the terrain of the Western Front made the use of artillery a great deal more effective.

New Year's Day 1917 brought Hobbs promotion to Major-General and appointment to command of 5th Division, where he worked with the mercurial and often difficult Pompey Elliott.  His debut as a divisional commander was an unhappy one however, with the mismanaged attack at Bullecourt (which he had earlier argued against, without success).

More successfully 5th Division performed well at Polygon Wood in September 1917 (for which Hobbs was knighted in January 1918) and went on to play a key role in the capture of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918.

In its final campaign of the war 5th Division performed with merit at the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918, in capturing Peronne on 2 September and in piercing the Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt.

After the armistice Hobbs decided to return to his former profession, architecture, despite receiving a promotion to Lieutenant-General on 28 November 1918.  He was further awarded the KCMG in the King's 1919 New Year's honours list.

With a keen interest in the construction of war memorials Hobbs was responsible for designing the West Australian War Memorial in Perth.  Of the six Australian divisional memorials Hobbs designed five, including that sited at Polygon Wood.

Finally retiring from the army in 1927 Hobbs died of a heart attack while travelling en route to France for the unveiling of the Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in April 1938.  He was afforded a state funeral in Perth with military honours.

"ANZAC" was coined in 1915 from the initials of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

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