- Born 29 June 1882
- Died 31 July 1917
- Won seven England caps
Edgar Roberts Mobbs was born in Northampton, one of six children of Oliver Linnel Mobbs and his wife Elizabeth Anne.
His father was an engineer and his mother came from a background in shoe making, for which Northampton was famous.
Edgar’s education was at Bedford Modern School, where records show him as a modest scholar who was taken away early and put to work, being at one time a car salesman and later director of the Pytchley Auto Car Company.
Although a promising sportsman, his early departure from school meant that he did not feature there in the 1st XV. He was soon playing rugby at club level though, first with Olney and then 234 times for Northampton, for whom he was captain from the 1907/08 season until 1913.
He captained East Midlands (for whom he was also the RFU committee member) for a similar period and also played for the Barbarians. His seven caps for England came in 1909 and 1910, and included captaining the side to an 11-3 victory against France in Paris in 1910.
The Sportsman's Battalion
When the war came he immediately volunteered (aged 32) but was too old for a commission. Mobbs therefore formed his own special corps. 264 men (out of over 400 who volunteered) joined and, as the Sportsman’s Battalion, formed a large part of the 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment.
They took part in the Battles of Loos, Somme and Arras. Mobbs was wounded three times, mentioned in Despatches twice and awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1917.
His return to his Battalion after his third injury, and by now as Colonel, coincided with the 3rd Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele. Mobbs lost his life at Zillebeke.
Wounded three times, having returned to his Battalion after his third injury, Colonel Mobbs was to die in the Third Battle of Ypres, at Passchendaele.
He was not supposed to be involved in the fighting but, finding that his men were in serious trouble pinned down by machine gunners, he decided to lead a two-pronged rugby flanking movement. He set off with another runner, taking some hand grenades, around the side of the machine gun post but was shot in the neck and fell into a shell hole just 30 yards short.
Even as he lay dying, he scribbled out the machine gun post’s map reference for HQ to eliminate it, asked for reinforcements, and finally added: “Am seriously wounded”.
When they reached him 10 minutes later, he was dead. Edgar’s body was never recovered – his name is listed among all those of the missing on the Menin Gate in Ypres.
Mobbs’ Memorial Match
On 10 February 1921, the East Midlands played the Barbarians in the first Mobbs’ Memorial Match, which became an annual fixture and, apart from the six years of WW2, was played for the next 90 years. From 2012, it has become a game against the Army and alternates between Northampton and Bedford.
There are 27 England players recorded on the Twickenham War Memorial, of which Mobbs is one of only two who reached the highest rank of Lt. Colonel.
His name also appears on memorials in Northampton and Olney, as well as the Northampton club’s one in Franklin’s Gardens. Bedford Modern School has “Mobbs House” in his memory, and a connecting road from Northampton to the A45 is named “Edgar Mobbs Way”.
For more information on the Rugby Football Union’s First World War commemorations, click here
For details of the other 26 fallen England players, click here.