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Letters from Lieut-Col. A.B Hubback

A.B Hubback was on a voyage to England with his family when World War I officially begun on 28 July 1914. Upon arrival in August 1914, he presented himself to Sir Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton who was then Commander-in-Chief of Home Forces, lending himself to the War Office between 1914-1918, enrolled into the Home Territorial Forces. - 23 Sept 1914: 19th London Regiment (St. Pancras) as Major. 26 Feb 1915: 20th London as Lieut. Col. - 1916: Commanded 2nd Infantry Brigade of the 1st Division of British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Received CMG. - 1918: Commanded 118th Infantry Brigade, 39th Devision BEF & the 63rd Infantry Brigade, 87th Division, BEF. Received DSO. - 1919: Colonel, TF.

His troop was called to battle for reinforcement at the Western Front, posted in France for The Somme through the Battle of Loos, Somme and Passchendaele. He was wounded and mentioned six times in dispatches. The Malayan newspapers had published some of his personal letters during the War, between 1915 and 1917. ____

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser , 15 November 1915, Page 2 Story of Loos Battle France, Belgium, and Great Britain

Lt. Col. A.B Hubback’s Battalion, the 20th Londons, took part in the Loos battle. In the following extracts from letters written by Col. Hubback, says the Pinang Gazette, their operations are described.

Sept. 29th, Thank God I have got through the first four days’ fighting without a scratch. The 20th have covered themselves with glory. I will try to describe the whole thing. We formed up in the assembly trenches at 2 a.m on Saturday, 25th September and attacked at 6.30. I had all my arrangements made and we went over the top of the trench at the given moment. The attack was a bit of a surprise to the Bosches, but they soon opened fire, and there was an absolute hail of shell, rifle and machine gun fire. The Battalion went along as if they were on parade. I went over with the last line and had the Adjutant with me. We soon caught up the forward lines and it was perfectly glorious to go through the lines and see the men racing on. All I had to say was “Come along 20th” and I heard them say “There’s the Colonel.” We got to our objective and knocked the Bosches out of the part of the village allotted to us, and then went on. I sent one company to a special place where the Boshes had a strong position. They captured that with very little trouble and got two field guns as well. This point was the key of the position and proved to be so later. We got to work at once to consolidate the position. The Colonel of the 19th Londons was killed early in the day. About 11 a.m. I got a message from the Brigade telling me to take over command of the two lines, so I had to work cut out. The Germans counter attacked in great numbers, but our men stood fast and beat them back. My officer at the particular spot saved the whole situation. He had two officers killed and at one time had only eight men left and held out the whole time. I have sent in his name for the V.C and I think he will get it. We held on the position, and then I was told to organise an attack on a copse quite close to us which was worrying us a lot, and a company of the e 23rd Londons was sent to help. We got the copse in three hours, we held it all that night and the next day, and were relived on Tuesday night, the 5th night and we got back about 2 1⁄2 miles. The advance we made was over 1 1⁄2 miles. How I came through that inferno of shell, rifle and machine-gun fire without a scratch I cannot say. I have only six officers left in the Battalion now. I am so proud of my men and the officers. Nothing in the world could have been finer than to see them go over the trenches and they had to advance 1 1⁄2 miles.

Oct. 1st, I could not write yesterday as we were on the move all day. We are about 10 miles back now, refitting and making up deficiencies. The men actually came in singing after all they had gone through. The General of our Division came and congratulated us on our magnificent work. The two field guns we captured are to be sent Home and placed at the Headquarters of the Battalion as war trophies. We all hope that everything will go on as it has begun but there seems to be a lull for the moment. I expect we will be going up again in a few days. I hope they give us a good rest, as I am feeling the effects of the awful strain of those four days and four nights continual fighting. I feel like a lim rag. You cannot imagine what a terrible strain it was. I could eat nothing. I just nibbled a biscuit and had occasional tea and rum, and one slice of bully beef during the whole four days. Sleep was at a discount, and it poured with rain the whole time, so we were wet through the whole time. Our Brigade took 800 prisoners. To add to the discomfort we had to advance in our gas helmets as we were being gassed, but the whole thing was magnificent and I cannot say enough about my pride in my wonderful men. ____

The Straits Times, 9 May 1916, Page 8, Brig-General A.B Hubback

In a letter to a Kuala Lumpur resident, Brig-General A.B Hubback, mentions that he has been given command of one of the old brigades of the British Expeditionary Force, every battalion being a Regular one. He is kept very busy: from about 5 a.m till midnight in the usual programme. “And part of that time,” adds the Brigadier, "is spent in dodging Bosche shells and keeping out of the way of the wily sniper, who by the way missed me the other day by about two inches. I often wonder when I will sweat round the Petaling Hill and quench my Sunday morning thirst at the Pig and Whistle under the tree. I get home about every three months for ten day’s leave, and I want it by then, as the strain is a bit heavy: now, with a Brigade instead of a Battalion, it is more so. Brig-General is quite optimistic. I think we have got the Bosche stone cold, he says. And it is only a question of time for him to chuck it. I have met very few F.M.S men out here. They are nearly all in the 2nd or 3rd K’s Armies." ____

The Straits Times, 23 November 1917, Page 8

A private letter describing the circumstances in which Brigadier General A.B Hubback, C.M.G was wounded says he had a marvellous escape, as a big piece of shell passed up his leg, entering just by his kneecap, main artery and thigh bone by the fraction of an inch. The whole leg was cut open and the piece of shell removed. After six weeks’ careful treatment in a Belgian hospital it healed up well in spite of its being very septic to start with. He gets about all right now, but has a good deal of pain on wet days.

AB Hubback's Medal Card from the War Office. Source: British National Archives, Ref. No. WO 3721077955

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