“There is one name in the history of the Saints that stands as much for gallantry, bravery, leadership and heroism as playing ability and statistics – Edgar Mobbs.”
It would be impossible to ignore the importance of Edgar Mobbs in the history of Northampton rugby club. A winger making 234 appearances for the club, and earning 7 England caps, he served as captain from 1907 through to his retirement in 1913. Whilst his on-pitch exploits alone would have earned him a level of immortality, it is through his patriotic efforts during the Great War that he is best remembered.
First, though, what of the history between the Saracens and Northampton clubs? The fixture can be traced back to March 30th, 1895, the year of the great schism between the Northern Union and RFU.
Neither Saracens nor Northampton would have got too entangled in these proceedings, due to both their geographical location and the clubs’ adherence to the amateur tradition.
With Saracens travelling away, the 10 to 0 scoreline is perhaps understandable in this opening fixture between the clubs; sadly, the 39 to 0 drubbing they received the next season was less so! With the game apparently providing little serious competition for Northampton, Saracens appear to have been dropped from the fixture list and do not reappear until after the Second World War.
Returning to Edgar Mobbs, studies reveal that he had initially been refused a commission into the army, owing to his age of 32 being deemed too old. Undeterred, he took it upon himself to raise his own battalion, using the Franklin’s Gardens ground as a staging post for a recruitment drive – publicly stating he would enlist and urging others to follow him. The 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire regiment became known as “The Mobbs Own” and is recognised as one of the pioneers of the Pals Battalions that were to follow. Pals Battalions had been largely encouraged as a way of grouping together men with similar interests, professions or sometimes even from the same neighbourhood streets. After the carnage of the Somme, and disproportionate casualty numbers falling on particular communities, they were phased out.
Mobbs was undoubtedly a committed soldier, and clearly dedicated to serving the men under his command. Despite twice being wounded he always sought to return to the frontline as quickly as possible. Mobbs was killed in action in July 1917, leading from the front – despite his rank of Lt. Colonel – in an assault on a German machine gun post. His body was never found. Edgar Mobb’s legacy is celebrated firstly through a statue unveiled to him in Northampton’s Market Square in 1921, but also through the annual Mobbs Memorial game versus The Barbarians rugby club which was inaugurated in March 1921, and played until 2011.
Good luck to the Saints and the Saracens teams this weekend, as rugby fans commemorate the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War this season, and remember their injured and fallen players from the conflict.