Air Mechanic 2nd Class Albert Gordon Hobart

Date of Birth c. 1897
Age at Death 20
Date of Death 13 November 1917
Service Number 17034
Military Service 13th Balloon Company Royal Flying Corps
Merton Address 2 Willow Lodge, Mitcham
Local Memorial Mitcham War Memorial

Additional Information

Born in 1897, Albert was baptised Albert Gordon Goldsmith at Holy Trinity Church, Wimbledon. He was the son of James and Alice Goldsmith but tragically seems to have been orphaned at an early age. By 1901 he was living in Twickenham with his widowed aunt, Alice Mary Hobart. They later moved to Penge, together with an unrelated 9 month old boy for whom his aunt was acting as nursemaid. Ms. Hobart also owned a confectioner’s shop and having left school, just prior to the war, Albert started working as a baker’s shop assistant.

Albert is thought to have enlisted c.1916. By this stage he had apparently adopted his aunt’s surname and effectively considered her his mother – certainly that is how she is listed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Albert became an Air Mechanic in the 13th Balloon Company of the Royal Flying Corps. The RFC was the air arm of the British Army before and during the First World War, later merging with the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force. In addition to aircraft, the RFC also had an observation balloon squadron. This was used for spotting purposes, aerial photography and later wireless communication. At the start of the war the British Expeditionary Force did not have any observation balloons of its own and had to borrow French equipment. The first British unit arrived at the Front in May 1915 and became operational during the Battle of Aubers Ridge.

Balloon operations were extremely hazardous. At the height of the war a balloon could only expect to last two weeks before it was damaged or destroyed and it was necessary to keep them at a distance from the front line in order to avoid enemy artillery fire.

One of the worst periods for balloon operatives was April 1917, dubbed “Bloody April” due to the number of unit casualties. Albert’s company appears to have been based in Flanders by this stage and he was killed in action during an enemy air raid on 13 November 1917. He was buried at Canada Farm Cemetery, northwest from Ypres. This takes its name from a farmhouse used as a dressing station during the 1917 Allied offensive on this front. Of the 907 burials in the cemetery, most are of men who died at the dressing station between June and October 1917.

After his death, Albert’s aunt moved to 2 Willow Lodge in Mitcham. This may explain why his name appears on the Mitcham war memorial.


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