Hobart Brooks Farquhar

Hobart Brooks Farquhar

London Regiment (Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles) 15th Battalion

Died 22 May 1916

Capt. H.B. Farquhar – C.S. Rifles

Hobart Brooks Farquhar was the youngest son of Admiral Sir Arthur Farquhar KCB of Drumnagesk and his wife Ellen, born at Carlogie, Dess on 16 April 1874. The 1881 census finds him there aged 6, living with his parents, sisters Jane and Alice and brother Charles. He was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. 

Farquhar’s military career seems to have begun in the 1890s. Aged about 21, he went to South Africa in 1895, serving as a private in the Rhodesian Volunteers in the Matabele rebellion of 1896. He then joined the Civil Service but interrupted his career to serve again in the Boer War, first with the rank of Sergeant in the Rhodesian Volunteers, later as a Lieutenant in Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry. In 1904 he married Ida Violet Wolfe Barry at St Margaret’s, Westminster. She was four years younger, and the daughter of a civil engineer. From 1904 – 1912 he was a local authority District Auditor first in Lancashire then in Staffordshire, during which time, in 1909, he was called to the bar of the Inner Temple. In 1913 he became Inspector of Audits in the office of the National Health Insurance Commissioners. 

By the time he joined up in September 1914, Farquhar was no longer a particularly young man. He had passed his 40th birthday, and had an established career and family responsibilities. He was living in Woking and had three children: Nesta aged 9, Phoebe 8, and Anthony aged a year and four months.  A further daughter Felicity was to be born in August 1915. He appears, bespectacled and studious in his military uniform, in the pages of his old school’s “Memorials of the Great War”.  Perhaps, as his earlier life suggests, he had a taste for soldiering, or an overpowering sense of patriotic duty, or a combination of the two. Maybe he missed the action-packed life of his twenties. He was appointed to the London Regiment (Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles) 15th Battalion as a Lieutenant then promoted to the rank of Captain. He probably saw his family for the last time in February/March 1916 when, after two weeks of bronchitis, he was allowed home for a short period of leave.

Capt. Farquhar was posted “Wounded and missing on 21-23 May 1916”. The unit War Diary records the circumstances. The battalion began the day with a Church Parade at Camblain L’Abbé. By the evening they had moved up the line and were in position to mount an attack on enemy trenches.  At 10.15pm Capt. Farquhar with “B” Company reported to Brigade Headquarters and they were issued with 200 extra rounds of ammunition per rifleman, and extra bombs. At 2.10am “B” Company moved forward attacking in two lines, under very heavy musketry and machine gun fire supported by a strong artillery barrage.  At 2.45am “B” Company was reinforced by two platoons of “D” Company. By 4am on 22 May the line was “generally speaking quiet”, and some ground had been gained. At the end of the diary entry that day, it was noted that 2 officers, including Capt. Farquhar, were wounded and missing, 8 other ranks were missing; there were 9 killed and 73 wounded.

A number of men were interviewed about what had happened to Capt. Farquhar. The War Office file discloses that the precise circumstances and even the fact of his death proved hard to establish. There was at first some evidence from a stretcher bearer that he had been wounded and brought in by the Field Ambulance but this rumour, which Mrs Farquhar checked out in person at the Fulham Military Hospital on the morning of 7 June 1916, appears to have been incorrect. L/Cpl Watson who was also wounded in an attack on German trenches on the night of Sunday 21 May reported being told “that Capt. Farquhar had been hit. Shortly after he saw a figure in a hollow in the open which he is sure was an officer and feels certain was Capt. Farquhar. The night was dark – he did not go close enough to clearly identify the Officer – he spoke to him but got no reply though he saw the Officer wave his cane”

There was also a daring attempt to recover his body, which the file suggests earned the author of the following piece the Military Cross:

On the morning of the 22nd May 1916 at about 1 A.M. “B” Company with Captain F. i/c was sent up to counter-attack.

At 1.45 a.m. (about) Colonel W. sent me up with two platoons to re-inforce “B” Company. On reaching the “front line” (a series of little pieces of blown in trench) I found the remnants of “B” Company mostly wounded crawling in from No Mans land. I asked one or two of these men where Captain F was and they told me they had seen him fall wounded near the German wire. I got up on top and crawled out to find him. Some more wounded men lying in shell holes showed me the direction he was supposed to be but though I hunted about a good while (it was then beginning to get a bit light) I could find no trace of him… As you very well know it is a most difficult thing to find anyone during an engagement of that kind, particularly as the men of F’s Company did not seem absolutely sure where he had gone.”

Another member of the Captain’s Battalion claimed to have information that his body was found on the German wire in front of Vimy in about July of 1916, and he believed that the body had been brought in and buried.  

In these uncertain circumstances, clinging desperately to the hope that her husband might have been taken prisoner, Mrs Farquhar strongly petitioned the War Office to make no official declaration of his death until the war was over; but in April 1919 she officially accepted the inevitable conclusion that he had died at some time on 21-23 May 1916. 

He is commemorated at Christ Church Episcopal Church, Kincardine O’Neil, by a fine brass plaque on the north wall of the chancel, placed by his wife “In memory of my beloved husband…Killed in action at Vimy Ridge on May 22nd 1916”. Mrs Farquhar lived on until 1959 when she died in Surrey. It seems she did not remarry. 

1916 must have been a miserable year for the Drumnagesk Farquhars. Capt. Farquhar had gone missing in May, and in June his nephew Alastair (see Lieut. A. C. N. Farquhar) went down with his ship in the Channel.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Register of births
Census Scotland 1891
Census England 1891
England & Wales Free BMD Index 1837-1915 (in Ancestry.com)
National Archives – Officer’s file WO374/23618; War Diary of the London Regiment (Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifeles) 1/15th Bn WO95/2732
Cambridge University Alumni 1251-1900
Harrow Memorials of the Great War Vol 6 (Internet Archive) with photo
Aboyne War Memorial