Major General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart, KBE CB DSO MC (1885 - 1957) MP

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Nicknames: "Hobo"
Birthplace: Naini, Uttar Pradesh, India
Death: Died in Farnham, Surrey, UK
Occupation: British Military Engineer
Managed by: Yigal Burstein / יגאל בורשטיין
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About Major General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart, KBE CB DSO MC

Percy Hobart

Major-General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart KBE CB DSO MC (14 June 1885–19 February 1957), also known as "Hobo", was a British military engineer, noted for his command of the 79th Armoured Division during World War II. He was responsible for many of the specialised armoured vehicles ("Hobart's Funnies") that took part in the invasion of Normandy and later actions.

Early life

Hobart was born in Naini Tal, India, the son of Robert T. Hobart, Indian Civil Service (ICS), and Janetta Stanley of Roughan Park, County Tyrone. His sister, Elizabeth, later married the World War II Field Marshal, Bernard Montgomery. In his youth he studied history, painting, literature and church architecture. He was educated at Temple Grove School and Clifton College, and in 1904 he graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and was commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers. He was first sent to India, but during World War I he served in France and Mesopotamia (now Iraq).

He took part in the Waziristan campaign 1919–1920 when British and Indian Army forces put down unrest in local tribes.

In 1923, foreseeing the predominance of tank warfare, Hobart volunteered to be transferred to the Royal Tank Corps. While there, he gained the nickname "Hobo", and was greatly influenced by the writings of B. H. Liddell Hart on armoured warfare. He was appointed an instructor at the Command and Staff College at Quetta in 1923 where he served until 1927.

In November 1928, Hobart married Dorothea Field, the daughter of Colonel C. Field, Royal Marines. They had one daughter.

In 1934, Hobart became Brigadier of the first permanent armoured brigade in Britain and Inspector Royal Tank Corps. He had to fight for resources for his command because the British Army was still dominated by conservative cavalry officers.

In 1937, Hobart was made Deputy Director of Staff Duties (Armoured Fighting Vehicles) and later Director of Military Training. He was promoted to Major-General.

In 1938, Hobart was sent to form and train "Mobile Force (Egypt)" although a local general resisted his efforts. While sometimes referred to as the "Mobile Farce" by critics, Mobile Force (Egypt) survived and later became the 7th Armoured Division, famous as the Desert Rats.

World War II

Sir Archibald Wavell dismissed Hobart into retirement in 1940, based on hostile War Office information due to his "unconventional" ideas about armoured warfare. Hobart joined the Local Defence Volunteers (precursor to the Home Guard) as a lance-corporal and was charged with the defence of his home village, Chipping Campden. "At once, Chipping Campden became a hedgehog of bristling defiance", and Hobart was promoted to become Deputy Area Organiser. Liddell Hart criticised the decision to retire Hobart and wrote an article in the newspaper Sunday Pictorial. Winston Churchill was notified and he had Hobart re-enlisted into the army in 1941. Hobart was assigned to train 11th Armoured Division, which was recognised as an extremely successful task. His detractors tried again to have him removed, this time on medical grounds, but Churchill rebuffed them. Subsequently, however, he was removed from the 11th Armoured when they were transferred to Tunisia in September 1942. He was relatively old (57) for active command and he had been ill.

Once again, Hobart was assigned to raise and train a fresh armoured division, this time the 79th.

79th Armoured Division

The Dieppe Raid in August 1942 had demonstrated the inability of regular tanks and infantry to cope with fortified obstacles in an amphibious landing. This showed the need for specialised vehicles to cope with natural and man-made obstructions during and after the Allied invasion of Europe.

In March 1943, Hobart's 79th Armoured was about to be disbanded, due to lack of resources, but Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, in a "happy brainwave", invited Hobart to convert his division into a unit of specialised armour. Hobart was reputedly suspicious at first and conferred with Liddell Hart before accepting, with the assurance that it would be an operational unit with a combat role. The unit was renamed the "79th (Experimental) Armoured Division Royal Engineers". Unit insignia was a black bull's head with flaring nostrils superimposed over a yellow triangle; this was carried proudly on every vehicle. Hobart's brother-in-law, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery informed Dwight D. Eisenhower of his need to build specialised tanks.

Under Hobart's leadership, the 79th assembled units of modified tank designs collectively nicknamed "Hobart's Funnies". These were used in the Normandy invasion and were credited with helping the Allies get ashore. The 79th's vehicles were offered to all of the forces taking part in the landings of Operation Overlord, but the Americans declined all except the amphibious Sherman DD tank. Liddell Hart said of him: To have moulded the best two British armoured divisions of the war was an outstanding achievement, but Hobart made it a "hat trick" by his subsequent training of the specialised 79th Armoured Division, the decisive factor on D-Day.

The vehicles of the 79th did not deploy as units together but were attached to other units. By the end of the war the 79th had almost 7000 vehicles.

The 79th Armoured Division was disbanded on August 20, 1945.

Hobart returned to retirement in 1946 and died in 1957 in Farnham, Surrey.

A barracks in Detmold, Germany was named after him. Hobart Barracks has since been handed back to the German Government and no longer functions as a barracks.

Awards and decorations

In 1943, Hobart was made Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE). After the war, he was awarded the American Legion of Merit. During his career, Hobart also became a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) and, for his actions in World War I, received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Military Cross (MC). During his military career he was also mentioned in despatches 9 times.

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Major-General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart,'s Timeline

1885
June 14, 1885
Naini, Uttar Pradesh, India
1928
November, 1928
Age 43
1957
February 19, 1957
Age 71
Farnham, Surrey, UK
February, 1957
Age 71
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