John Dilley’s WWI Blog: Colonel Mobb’s narrow escape

John Dilley.
John Dilley.

August 29, 1916 – celebrity journalism is no modern-day phenomenon.

News of a shoulder injury to legendary hero Edgar Mobbs dominates the August 29, 1916, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

The former Northampton Saints and England rugby star was the rallying point at the beginning of the war for many Harborough area men who enlisted into the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment – or Mobbs’ Corps as it was affectionately known.

So it is of little surprise the Advertiser editor gives the story its own headline – Col E. R. Mobbs Wounded – and devotes more space to the account than the death of a 21-year- old Harborough soldier who had recently won a Military Medal.

It appears Mobbs had ‘a narrow escape’ as ‘the shell which injured him killed three men and wounded other soldiers who standing close by him’.

The Advertiser sources some of its account from the Sporting Chronicle which says: “By his men he was worshipped and no one rejoiced more in his promotion. If there was danger Colonel Mobbs was prepared to share it. There was nothing he would not tackle himself. That fact gave the men thorough confidence in him.”

The story continues: “News of his well-being will be eagerly awaited, for probably he is the most popular man of the town, by the sport-loving community and by everybody who admires a brave man.”

The editor does also give plenty of coverage to the death of Private Kack Isaac of St Mary’s Road, Harborough.

His parents clearly wanted the Advertiser’s readers to know about their ‘gallant’ son as they have provided the editor with the letter they received from his company.

The report says: “Jack was with his friend Johannsen and Lance-Corporal Brown. They were doing splendid work, sticking to their gun most gallantly, when they were hit by a large shell. They were all killed instantaneously.”

Isaac’s parents also – clearly very proudly – have been interviewed by the editor and provided background information.

“He was a prominent Army Cross-Country runner and on one occasion at some Army sports finished first in a field of 300.

“Two days later he ran in a field of 500, which was started by the King, and he then finished seventh, the general opinion being that but for his exertions earlier in the week, he would have stood a good chance of being the winner.”

It is a terribly sad time for Mr and Mrs Isaac but the worry will not stop. The story concludes with the information that their three other sons are also in His Majesty’s Forces, a situation many of the Advertiser’s readers will know only too well.

There are also brief reports of two other local men who have been injured – Private Stanley Salisbury of Oxendon is in hospital suffering from wounds and shell shock, and Lance Sergeant A Clark of Great Bowden who has been wounded in the head.

In a ‘cheery’ letter to his parents he says that ‘Fritz tried to knock his head off but his helmet saved him from that’.