War memorial to former Saints and England captain Edgar Mobbs unveiled in Ypres

The memorial was put up by Philip Mobbs (pictured), who is a great great nephew of Edgar.
The memorial was put up by Philip Mobbs (pictured), who is a great great nephew of Edgar.

A new memorial to one of Northampton's most famous sons has been unveiled on the centenary of his death at the spot where he died.

Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Mobbs was killed while attempting to destroy a German machine gun that was holding up the advance of his men, the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment, on the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres.

The battle which commenced on July 31, 1917 would last for 103 days resulting in the loss of 300,000 Allied and 250,000 German lives.

Commemorations took place in and around the Belgian town of Ypres last Monday, with the main service held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Tyne Cot, as well as at the traditional Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate where the names of 54,896 Allied soldiers with no known grave are recorded.

Edgar Mobbs, born in Northampton in 1882, played rugby for Saints for ten years, seven as captain, scoring 177 tries.

He also captained the East Midlands and Barbarian teams as well as being capped seven times for England, the last as captain, the first Saint to lead his country.

During the summer he also played cricket for Buckinghamshire.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 he was at first turned down for a commission in the army as he was too old but enlisted as a private soldier and encouraged others to join alongside him to form their own 'Pals' unit.

Over 400 did so and the 264 considered fit went on to form D Company of the newly raised 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment, which would become known as the 'Mobbs Corps'.

Edgar rose from private to commander of the battalion in just eighteen months.

At their first action at the Battle of Loos in 1915, the 7th Battalion suffered 40 per cent casualties - including its commanding officer - and Captain Mobbs, although wounded, found himself in charge of the battalion fighting a desperate defence against German counter attacks.

Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and permanent command in 1916, he would be wounded twice more -at the Battles of the Somme and Messines Ridge - twice Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

He had only been back with his battalion for a few weeks after being wounded when he lead them at the Battle of the Third Ypres where he was tragically killed. His body was lost in the Flanders mud in Shrewsbury Forest, south east of the town.

It is there, close to the position of the machine gun marked by Edgar on his trench map which is in the possession of the Mobbs family, that the new memorial to him has been erected.

The memorial consists of a cross standing 6ft 1in tall made of English Oak, to represent Edgar, with a plaque carrying the inscription:

Hereabouts lies
Lieut Colonel
Edgar Roberts Mobbs DSO
7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment
Killed in action 31 July 1917
England, Barbarians, East Midlands and
Northampton Rugby Captain
Indomitable Sportsman, Gallant Soldier

The memorial was put up by Philip Mobbs, who is a great great nephew of Edgar, funded by the Mobbs family and the Crooked Hooker, the association for ex-players of Northampton Saints.

It was unveiled by David Powell of the Crooked Hooker. The East Midlands Rugby Union organised a visit to Ypres for the unveiling and the party included several members of the Mobbs family.