In the last third of the 19th Century Edward and Ann Jobling of West Hartlepool produced a family of 10 brothers, all of whom seem to have stayed in or around the Hartlepool district for most of their lives. At that time, Hartlepool was a busy port and manufacturing centre and the family found employment within the coal industry, local engineering works and wood yards.
Joseph Jobling was one of the younger brothers, having been born in 1878, and he seems to have developed an interest in education from an early age. In 1898, he is listed in the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail as a member of a local science class and he was teaching at Brougham Board School in Hartlepool at the time of the 1901 census. In 1903 he started a one-year course at Bede College in Durham, rather than the more usual two-year qualification. There were six students studying this shortened course at the time: possibly they were all mature students, (Joseph Jobling was aged 25 at the time), or they had already gained some teaching experience within a school environment. All six successfully qualified in July 1904.
In October 1905 Joseph Jobling married Elizabeth Dent at West Hartlepool and the following year, a son, Edgar, was born. Elizabeth Jobling was also a teacher. By the time of the 1911 census the young family had moved to Wansbeck Gardens in West Hartlepool, where they lived throughout the war. Joseph was teaching at Stranton County Primary School, and contributing to community life at Stranton All Saints church where he was a bell-ringer.
Hartlepool has the dubious distinction of being one of only three English towns to engage directly with the enemy during the First World War. The bombardment of Hartlepool by three German battlecruisers began early on 16 December 1914 and cost the lives of 52 residents. The Royal Garrison Artillery defended the town on that day, from the Heugh Battery which stands on the Headland overlooking Hartlepool. Joseph Jobling would have been well acquainted with the Battery since it is a surviving 19th-century coastal fortification, but as for most residents the day of the bombardment probably presented his first ‘front-line’ experience.
When he enlisted in December 1915, he chose to join the Royal Garrison Artillery and he was placed on the Army Reserve until mobilisation on 16 August 1916. During this period of a home posting he may well have been based at the No. 17 Coastal Fire Command at Hartlepool (a.k.a. the Heugh Battery) – possibly using his teaching experience to train other members of the R.G.A. He was posted on 24 August 1916 to 2/3 Company Durham R.G.A. and within a week was promoted to Acting Bombardier and posted to the 265th Siege Battery R.G.A.
During the period between October 1916 and February 1917 Joseph Jobling was training in this country; no doubt, learning about the strategic importance of the Siege Battery. In 1914, the British Army possessed very little heavy artillery, but by 1916 it was armed with heavy, large calibre guns and howitzers that were positioned some way behind the front line and were capable of great destruction. The physical work of hauling these massive guns into position in the renowned mud of northern France was a test in itself, and the updated strategy of using heavy artillery to combat long-range weapons necessitated effective intelligence to avoid accidental friendly fire. At this time front line trenches relied upon runners for their communications, but aircraft were also being introduced and proved very useful.
Among the many changes in strategy introduced was the creeping barrage. The Heavy Artillery directed an advancing wall of shellfire only yards in front of the ongoing infantry, clearing obstacles and obstructing the enemy’s view of the attack. The experience must have been terrifying for the foot soldiers who would have experienced ‘friendly’ shells screaming above them as they approached the enemy lines. The creeping barrage was only possible given improvements in communications and logistical planning.
The Third Battle of Ypres, better known as the Battle of Passchendaele, was planned to start on 31 July 1917 and continued until 10 November. During September there was heavy fighting around the Menin Road and Polygon Wood as well as continued hostilities in the rest of the Ypres salient. The 47th Divisional Artillery was dotted about the area in support of the large numbers of infantry units mobilised in the area. Given the nature of the attachments of the Royal Garrison Artillery it is very difficult to trace the actions of individual batteries through the available sources such as war diaries, and specific details of Joseph Jobling’s service are consequently hard to discover.
On 18 September 1917 Joseph Jobling was killed in action at Dickebusch and was buried at The Huts Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The cemetery takes its name from a line of huts strung along the road between Dickebusch and Brandhoek which were used by field ambulances during the battle. These field ambulances were dealing with up to 1000 injuries each day, a further indication of the ferocity of the fighting during the Battle. The cemetery contains 1,088 graves: nearly two-thirds of the casualties are gunners since there were so many artillery positions nearby. Large numbers of the casualties are listed as from the Royal Garrison Artillery, although there are limited numbers of burials on the same day as Joseph Jobling’s death. Perhaps this indicates that he fell victim to intermittent enemy action rather than a large-scale offensive. However, the obvious vicinity of the heavy guns surely meant that the position of the gunners could be easily traced by their constant firing, thereby increasing their risk from hostile fire.
Bombardier Jobling’s ultimate sacrifice is remembered in his home town of Hartlepool in its Book of Remembrance and Roll of Honour, as well as on the Victory Square Obelisk. He is included on the Roll of Honour at Brougham County School and in the National Union of Teachers War Record 1914-1919 (1920), and on a Memorial Plaque at Stranton All Saints Church, and on a plaque commemorating change ringers in Newcastle Cathedral. His name is not recorded on the Bede College war memorials.
Elizabeth Jobling received her husband’s effects, which included three religious books and two dictionaries, and in April 1918 was awarded a pension of 18/9d per week for herself and her son.