Obituary: Harold Hobson 1920-2019

Hal Hobson at ANZAC Day 2019 in Bellingen

Hal Hobson at ANZAC Day 2019 in Bellingen

Harold George Hobson passed away peacefully at Bellingen Hospital on Thursday morning June 13, 2019.

He was born in Gleniffer, the Promised Land, on January 29, 1920, the son of Herbert (Bert) Hobson and Mabel Hobson (nee Griffith). He is survived by his wife Nancy, daughters Rosemary, Cally and Janet and their families - six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His older brothers Wal, Bob and Doug predeceased him.

At an early age Hal's father Bert moved the family from Gleniffer to Northcote Street, Bellingen. Bert was in charge of the Grocery Department at the Hammond and Wheatley store, which is still trading on Hyde St. Horse-drawn carts delivered the groceries and the four Hobson boys had to collect the horses from the paddocks six days a week, and bring them to the store. Motor transport arrived in 1926 to take over the deliveries.

It was a happy childhood in Bellingen with many outdoor activities. Most children were barefoot until age eight and the only pair of shoes Hal owned was to wear to church on Sundays. After the School Certificate he was the first Bellingen student to attend Coffs Harbour High School for two more years of schooling to attain his Leaving Certificate. Transport was Charlie Jackson's service car from Bellingen to Raleigh, steam train to Coffs Harbour (invariably late) and then a bus to the high school.

After high school a banking career awaited with the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac) and Hal started in Alstonville in 1937, age 17. He also worked in Tamworth and Wingham. World War II arrived. After a couple of years in the militia part time (a military force raised from civilian population in time of war), Hal enlisted as an airman with the RAAF, coincidentally on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Japanese. Hal had always had a love of aeroplanes. As he said, "Every plane that flew over was eagerly sought and watched since the age of seven".

The RAAF selected Hal for flying training and in July 1942 he set sail from Melbourne to Canada. In Saskatoon he undertook training on Tiger Moths and Cessna Crane aeroplanes with the Royal Canadian Air Force and gained his flying badge or Wings on December 30, 1942. After this, he was given a commission to Vulcan, Alberta, where he undertook instructor training and then spent 16 months training students to get their Wings.

On June 5, 1944 Hal was given a commission to fly Mosquito planes and, with three Australian friends, was posted to 464 Squadron RAAF in Rosieres-en-Santerre, France, where they were to intercept enemy transports and target infrastructure. Hal completed 18 sorties with his navigator John Barnard, piloting the Mosquito bomber and mainly engaged in night bombing over enemy territory. He also transported prisoners of war to safety in England after the war.

In recalling his experiences of the conflict Hal said the mates you had were probably as important as anything else - you stood by one another. Commenting on his luck in surviving the war he said two main things were important - firstly the amount of flight and navigation training he had received in Canada and secondly the speed of the Mosquito bomber.

In 2015 Hal, along with others, received the French Legion of Honour (Legion d'Honneur) for their contributions to the liberation of France. This is the highest French award for military and civil merits, established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. This was in addition to his five medals and returned from active service badge awarded to him by his own country.

After the war Hal returned to Westpac (Bank of NSW) and worked in 11 branches until his retirement in 1979 age 59. These branches included Bellingen, Emmaville (where he met Nancy), Dorrigo, Narrabri, St Mary's, Orange, Woonona (inaugural manager), Warren, Coonabarabran, Pymble and Armidale. The bank moved officers every three years or so and their daughters were born in different towns. Rosemary was born in Dorrigo, Cally in Narrabri and Janet in Orange. Hal (and Nancy) were good citizens and participated actively in all the communities, joining the golf club, Legacy, Rotary, Red Cross, RSL, the Anglican Church, school committees and becoming a part of all the towns in which they lived.

When in Europe during the war years Hal always dreamed of one day returning to the most beautiful valley he knew. And so, in retirement for 40 years Hal and Nancy, married for almost 70 years, have enjoyed life in Bellingen and Mylestom, where Hal loved to play golf, worm, fish, surf and swim. In his youth he loved Mylestom and continued to do so throughout.

His life did not slow down. Hal was an early president of the Golf Club and served for six years. Fittingly at 99, he had his last nine holes of golf at Bellingen, and was fondly acknowledged by the club members. Rotary meetings every week were always enjoyed and this, together with a long involvement with the Retired Bankers Association, other community groups, sport and travel, meant his life was busy.

Hal had a gentle, kind and polite nature, a wonderful sense of fun and humour, and with his bright smile, was always so happy to see everyone.

His was a wonderful life; a life well lived.