Hobart - General Royal Tank Corps

Major General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart KBE CB DSO MC 

During the Second World War, Leadenporch House was home to Major-General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart and his family. `Hobo' was one of the most talented tank tacticians in the British army. Before the war he developed a new theory of mobile armoured warfare that found little favour with his superiors but was adopted enthusiastically by the new German Panzer commanders. In 1938 he was posted to Egypt, where he trained the 7th Armoured Division, which went on to find fame as the Desert Rats. His career then took a disastrous turn when he was placed on the retired list after falling foul of his superior officers (cavalrymen who saw his steadfast belief in the importance of the tank as "instability"). It was during nearly a year of frustrating employment as a lance-corporal (and then area co-ordinator) in the Local Defence Volunteers that Hobart moved to Deddington before being recalled to active duty by Churchill in October 1940.

After his reinstatement Hobart raised and trained a new armoured division (the 11th, the Black Bulls) but before he could command them in action he was reassigned to raise the 79th Armoured Division. Its role was to devise and procure specialised armour to overcome the natural and man-made hazards likely to be encountered on the Normandy beaches. Hobart's `funnies', as his swimming tanks, flame-throwers, minefield flails etc. were known, were used extensively on D-Day and subsequently on crossings of the Rhine and the Elbe. General Eisenhower later said that without them it was doubtful whether a bridgehead would ever have been established on D-Day.

Hobart retired from the Army in 1946 and became Lieutenant-Governor and Secretary of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea in 1948, when it is thought he moved away from Deddington. He died in 1957.

Courtesy of Deddington News July 2019

General Percy Hobart was living quietly in forced retirement in 1940 at Leadenporch House because he was deemed too ‘unconventional’ for highest rank.  However, his highly innovative organisation of the Home Guard in Oxfordshire attracted public attention. Churchill insisted that he be recalled to active service. In 1943 he was given the task – with sparse access to resources and just over a year to prepare – of creating the 79th Armoured Division to support the planned invasion of France. He master-minded the design of specialised vehicles - affectionately called ‘Hobart’s Funnies’ – such as mine clearance, bridge layers and swimming tanks. General Eisenhower doubted the beachhead could have been established without Hobo's Funnies. His Division with 1,500 armoured vehicles and over 20,000 men, took part in every phase of the European campaign following D-Day and Hobart was present at the German surrender on Luneberg Heath in May 1945. He retired at the end of the war and continued living in Leadenporch until 1948 when he became Lieutenant-Governor of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. He died in 1957. The story of his tumultuous year leading up to the D-Day landings is recounted in Not Only The Good Boys, a novel by Jo Eames, the current owner of Leadenporch.  Copies are available direct by email to jo@peachpubs.com or via Amazon.

Editor's note: For his occupation of Leadenporch House see also HERE and HERE

More about his military career can be found on Wikipedia

And more about his 'Funnies' on the Imperial War Museum website