The Barry Hobbs Collection of Great War Medals
Barry Hobbs (1942 - 2021)
Barry Hobbs was born in Norfolk where his mother Amy had been evacuated during the Second World War in order to escape the heavy bombing of London’s East End. He was the youngest of four siblings, a sister Denise and two brothers, Brian and Jack. They returned to East London when the war ended and were re-housed in a new estate in Hainault where Barry spent an idyllic childhood ‘climbing trees and dodging school.’ The catholic faith played a large part in Barry’s childhood and he attended catholic schools and served as an altar boy.
In 1959 Barry met Val at the Ilford Palais and they married in 1963, remaining together until the end. A son James was born in 1970, who sadly died in 1998, followed in 1974 by a daughter Claire, who is the mother to Barry’s two beloved grandchildren, Archie and Mimi.
In the early 1960s, shortly before he got married, Barry followed his father into the Docks, an east end tradition, but he never forgot the upholstery skills he had learned as an apprentice. He remained working for the Port of London Authority until 1990 when he was forced to take early retirement following a severe industrial injury which put him out of action for more than a year. Sheer determination got him back on his feet and he used his compensation money to finance an old farmhouse in northern France near to several Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemeteries.
Following his accident, Barry turned his long held interest in medals and military history into a business. His interest in the subject had first been sparked by his late brother Jack, who like Barry also worked at Woolwich Docks. In the 1970’s Barry and Jack were regulars at Petticoat Lane Market in East London and a good number of the medals in his collection emanated from his days trawling the London markets at this time. Many years later Barry would himself become a market trader, with a regular stall at Camden Passage, as well as attending numerous medal fairs. Many people will remember his regular pitch on the stage at the Britannia Medal Fair, with his trestle table packed full of medals and badges, with an emphasis on the rare and the unusual.
Whilst Barry’s wide ranging trading stock could be described as eclectic (he would probably have preferred the word ‘exotic’), his personal interest had always been in the Great War and particularly 1914, a subject in which he became extremely knowledgable. Barry took great pleasure in seeing youngsters taking an interest in the subject and and was always happy to help them and to impart his enthusiasm and knowledge.
I was one of those lucky enough to benefit from Barry’s generosity, having first met him when I was 15 years old, and his influence at this time no doubt shaped my own career. To the many that knew Barry, his infectious sense of humour and relentless good natured banter will be an enduring memory that never fades or fails to bring a smile to your face.