The Collection at Glamorgan Archives includes extensive records covering many aspects of the First World War. These range from official government policy and directives, both local and national, to documents reflecting the consequences for the general population of total war on home front. This short piece describes the typical documents an ordinary soldier might have collected and retained as a record of his time spent serving in the forces during the war of 1914-18.
The records of Arthur Cornelius Hobbs do not describe any major battles, nor do they provide a diary record of the progress and set backs of the War; but they do record and document army life at the front.
Arthur was born in Morebath, Devon in December 1875, where he worked as a fish curer. No records are held at the Archives describing his life prior to his joining the colours and reporting for duty on 4 August 1916. A copy of the notice ordering him to do so can be found amongst his papers. It should be noted that, by this point in the War, the army was no longer comprised of volunteers; able bodied men within certain age groups were legally required to serve in the forces. Arthur, in common with other recruits, would have been aware that the enthusiasm displayed by the volunteers of 1914 at the outset of war had all but disappeared with reports of the appalling number of causalities sustained during the first two years of war. This was particularly relevant in August 1916; the Battle of the Somme was entering its second month and the British Army was suffering its greatest ever losses. Although Arthur was not at the front during this period, when one looks at his photographs one cannot help but be impressed with the steadfast nature of the images considering the reports of the catastrophic events at France and elsewhere.
Arthur’s papers include a number of greetings cards celebrating both Christmas and birthdays, together with examples of the British Army’s love of paperwork! There are indents for rations, including bread, cigarettes and whale oil, along with receipts for the issue and return of equipment. Among the more interesting of Arthur’s papers is a programme for the 85th Field Hospital’s production of Aladdin, and a ‘French Made Easy’ card with useful phrases, such as ‘Which is the way to Paris?’
Arthur Hobbs survived the war. He returned home, moved to Whitchurch in Cardiff, and worked in a variety of jobs, including as a coal foreman, before retiring in March 1938. He was also a District Commissioner of Scouts for South Wales. He died on 6 December 1939 aged 63.
John Arnold, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer