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William Hobman

Date of birth: 2.11.1915
Date of death: 16.7.1944
Area: Knottingley
Regiment: Royal Air Force
Family information: Husband of Bessie Maud Hobman nee Dixon
Rank: Warrant Officer (Pilot)
Service number: 655110

War Service

William Hobman served with 3 ADU (Aircraft Delivery Unit) at Heliopolis in the suburbs of Cairo, Egypt where he died 16 July 1944 age 28 years. He did his flight training at Perth, where he did his first solo flight on 10 June 1941.
Thousands of aeroplane parts, fuselages, wings and propellers for Beaufighters, Hurricanes and Spitfires were crated up and shipped from UK, USA and Canada to the West African port of Takoradi in the Gold Coast (Ghana). Here they were assembled by teams of engineers and technicians, before being flown by pilots of the Delivery Unit to their operational destination in the Middle East. The delivery involved a journey of some 4,000 miles on what became known as the West African Reinforcement Route and took six days to complete. This involved flying across Nigeria, French Equitorial Africa, Sudan and Egypt, encountering perilous jungle, tropical heat, thunderstorms and the barren deserted landscapes of the Sahara Desert, before reaching sight of the Pyramids in Cairo. In addition to overnight stops there were several re-fuelling points en route. They flew in small convoys of about six aircraft, and should one go down they were recovered by a team of specialist engineers.
On one occasion he had the misfortune to crash a Hurricane in the desert, partly due to navigational issues and shortage of fuel, and survived thanks to the assistance of one of the roaming desert tribes.
On another occasion, whilst flying a Wellington bomber, he overshot the runway after being given a wind direction which was inaccurate by 180 degrees.
He died on 16 July 1944 along with two other passengers, Sqdn Leader Eric Gordon Outram-White and Corporal Sidney Edwin Coles, when the Beaufighter he was piloting suffered engine failure and crashed whilst coming into to land at Heliopolis.
In later years his son Bill was in touch with a Bill Hope from Beverley who witnessed the accident, and revealed the plane was on the final turn into the airfield at about 800ft when one of the engines failed and it crashed killing all three men on board. He acted as a pall bearer at the military funeral.
A family story is that he was shortly due home on leave, and had told a relative, but asked him to keep it a secret as he wanted to surprise his wife Bessie. However, he could not keep the secret, so when the postman arrived with a telegram she expected it was to let her know when he would be coming home, only to discover it was the sad news of his accident.
The family received a letter of condolence from his Commanding Officer Air Commodore Witney Straight.
Pontefract & Castleford Express 4 August 1944 (Knottingley News)
News has been received by Mrs Wm H Hobman of Hill Top, Knottingley that her husband Warrant Officer William (Bill) Hobman of the RAFVR lost his life recently in the Middle East in an aircraft accident. He was the second son of Mr and Mrs Farnell Hobman of Spring Gardens, Kellingley. From the National School at Knottingley he won a scholarship to the Kings School Pontefract and matriculated with honours. Later he started a haulage business in partnership with his two brothers. Three years ago he married Miss Bessie Dixon; and besides the widow he leaves one son (Bill) aged 2. He joined the RASC in June 1940 and went to Norway in the following April. In 1941 he transferred to the RAF and the same year obtained his wings. He has been abroad for two and a half years. A memorial service was held on Sunday at Christ Church, Knottingley where he was at one time a member of the choir.”

Family Life

William was born on 2nd November 1915 and was baptised on 21st November 1915 at Christ Church, Knottingley. He was the son of Farnell and Elizabeth Thackray Hobman (nee Wood). They had married in the first quarter of 1913 and this was registered at Pontefract. His father was a glassworker and had been on active service in World War 1 when he was born.
On 12th May 1941, as an Aircraftsman 2nd class, William Hobman married Bessie Maud Dixon at the Congregational Church in Knottingley. They had one son, William (Bill), born in July 1942, but sadly his father never got to see him.
In the second quarter of 1965, registered at Pontefract, Bessie re-married Thomas Cyril Tranmer.

Heliopolis War Cemetery with rows of gravestones Heliopolis War Cemetery

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