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Hobart Town (1804) First Settlers Association Inc

Patron's Message

Lord Miles HobartThe Patron of the Hobart Town First Settlers Association is the The Rt. Hon The Earl of Buckinghamshire (Lord Miles Hobart)

At first glance, there would appear to be little connection between the Buckinghamshire family and Australia. The clue lies in the family name of Hobart-Hampden or more precisely in the name of Hobart.

This paper will look at two Hobart's and three Hobart-Hampden's, my predecessor Vere, the 9th Earl of Buckinghamshire, Ernest Miles who was my grandfather, and myself. The paper's intention is to trace my family connections with Australia.

The first Hobart connection to Australia is with Hobart or Hobarton. Hobarton, now the City of Hobart, was founded as a European settlement in 1804 and named after Robert Hobart (Lord Hobart) who at that time was Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.

Robert Hobart was born in 1760. He was educated at Westminster and his early career was spent as a soldier. He was decorated for service in North America during the American War of Independence. He was commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers and subsequently, as Secretary for War and the Colonies, was a volunteer with the Queen's Royals.

Robert Hobart, after his military experiences, went into politics and was Member of Parliament for both the English and Irish Parliaments. He was MP for Bramber and Lincoln (1788 - 1794) and MP for Portarlington (1784 - 1790) and later for Armagh in the Irish Parliament. He was also Aide de Camp to the Viceroy of Ireland, the Earl of Westmoreland (1784 - 1788) and Chief Secretary of Ireland from 1789 to 1793. He supported Viscount Castlereagh and the Earl of Clare in successfully concluding the Act of Union in 1800. This and his suppression of Irish Catholic rights in Ireland would not endear this particular Lord Hobart to many of the Irish today or indeed in the late 18th century.

Robert Hobart became a Privy Councillor in 1793 and was appointed Governor of Madras in 1793. He held this post until 1798 when he was recalled after serious differences with the Viceroy of India, Lord Feighmouth. Whilst he was in Madras, Robert Hobart led a military campaign against Malacca and played a part in the war against Tippo Sahib of Mysore.

His career in India may have been cut short but his political career in Britain now took off. He entered the House of Lords in 1798 as Lord Hobart. He served, as mentioned above, as Secretary of State for War and the Colonies between 1801 and 1805. In 1805 he became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster under Pitt. (In 1985 I attended a dinner held for the descendants of Pitt's 1805 cabinet held in honour of Lady Thatcher.)

For a short time he was joint Postmaster General and from 1812 he was President of the Board of Control for Indian Affairs.

Robert Hobart was the eldest son of the 3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire. Until he succeeded as the 4th Earl, he used the title of Lord Hobart. The family had been created Baron Hobart in 1728 before becoming the Earls of Buckinghamshire in 1746. He was a significant landowner with property in London and Lincolnshire. By this time, the family lands in Blickling, Norfolk had passed by marriage to the Marquess of Lothian. As a result, the 3rd and 4th Earls of Buckinghamshire lived at Nocton Hall in Lincolnshire. It was from Nocton Hall that the then Lord Hobart developed a friendship with Sir Joseph Banks. In March 2000, the Britain Australia Society erected a memorial to Sir Joseph Banks, the famous botanist, in Lincoln Cathedral calling Sir Joseph the "Father of Australia". On the memorial are inscribed the words in tribute to Sir Joseph by Robert Hobart, "wide as the world is, traces of you are to be found in every corner of it". These words are contained in a letter dated 18th October 1793 from Hobart to Banks in which Hobart also apologised for not being able to meet Banks at the Lincoln Sheriff's Ball as, he, Hobart, had just been appointed Governor of Madras.

Robert Hobart married twice. His first wife, Margaretta, died in Madras in 1796 shortly after giving birth to a son who died in infancy. Both are buried in the Garrison Church at Fort St George, Madras.

He married secondly Eleanor, daughter of the 1st Baron Auckland. He left no male heirs but one daughter from his first marriage, Sarah Albinia Louise, who married the 1st Earl of Ripon. Robert Hobart died in 1816 following a riding accident and was succeeded by his nephew, also a Robert Hobart, who became the 5th Earl of Buckinghamshire.

The second notable Hobart with somewhat obscure Australian connections is Sir Percy (Hobo) Hobart. Hobo was a noted tank strategist (much admired by the German commanders, Guderan & Rommel), who was rescued by Winston Churchill from obscurity as a private in the Home Guard at the beginning of the Second World War. Hobo, put by Churchill into a position of authority, developed the so-called "Funnies" which played a crucial role in the D-Day landings and the subsequent advance across Western Europe to Berlin and final victory in Europe.

"Sir Percy was not an easy man. Like many dynamic men he was difficult in many ways. He suffered in his military career when dealing with those who were not so fond of him or so ready to make allowance for his explosiveness. He was deeply admired and also feared. Few men have left so deep an impression on people and their profession and in his case the evolution of military technique." So wrote Kenneth Macksey in his biography of Hobo, the "Armoured Crusader".

And here is the obscure Australian connection, Hobo's sister, Elizabeth, married Viscount Montgomery of Alamein who spent part of his childhood in Tasmania where his father was the Bishop.

Turning now to the Hobart-Hampden's, I will deal with them in chronological order. Firstly, my grandfather, Ernest Miles, who was born in 1864 and died in 1947. Ernest has always been a shadowy figure to me but his importance in the inter-war years lay in his ability to understand Japanese intentions and their likely impact on British interests. He was a noted linguist, fluent in Japanese and his role in intelligence gathering in the inter war years is well described by Michael Smith in his book "The Emperor's Codes".

Ernest's connection with Australia is that he worked very closely with a Royal Australian Navy Paymaster Lieutenant, Eric Nave. Nave, himself, was a Japanese linguist and was involved with my grandfather in breaking the Japanese codes.

As Eric Nave wrote, "It was fortunate for me that I had available in the next room two eminent Japanese scholars, Hobart-Hampden and Sir Harold Parlett, who were always willing to come to my assistance when needed".

As the introduction to Michael Smith's book says, "The Emperor's Codes is the first full account of the critical role played by British and Australian codebreakers in deciphering Japanese codes."

Turning now to my predecessor, Frederick Vere Hobart-Hampden, the 9th Earl of Buckinghamshire and the 13th Lord Hobart.

Vere is one of the exceptions in this story in that he lived and worked in Australia for most of his adult life. He described himself as a "gentleman jackeroo" which the former Australian High Commissioner to the UK , Richard Alston, pointed out to me, is a contradiction in terms. Vere saw service during the war with the Royal Australian Air Force and late in his life married an Australian, Margot McCrae, from Sydney.

Which brings me on to myself as the 14th Lord Hobart and 10th Earl of Buckinghamshire.

I often think about life's coincidences. I was born in Madras, close to Fort George where the memorial to Robert Hobart's first wife and son was erected. Two of the Hobart's were governors of Madras. I was one of the first post graduate students at the Institute of Commonwealth Students, now part of the Australia Centre in King's College, London University. I succeeded my kinsman Vere who spent much of his early life in Queensland. I arranged and attended Vere's funeral in April 1983 in Blickling, Norfolk and left the same afternoon for Australia. Some two weeks later I was in Hobart at the invitation of the late Doug Plaister, Lord Mayor of Hobart, and Gloria Rankin of the First Settlers Association and staying in the Earl of Buckinghamshire suite at the Casino, Sandy Bay.

In May 1983, I remember sitting in the sunshine in Hobart looking at the statue erected to Sir john Franklin. He, like Banks, travelled the world. In Franklin's case, from Hobart to the North West Passage, where he lost his life. I remembered in particular the passage from Ecclesiastes, "Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us". How apt these words are for my forbears and the forbears of the Hobart Town 1804 First Settlers Association members.

It has been a pleasure for Alison and I to be associated with Hobart, Tasmania and Australia, through the Hobart Town 1804 First Settlers Association and latterly by being Chairman of the Cook Society and Chairman of the Britain Australia Society .I hope our relationship with our many friends in Hobart and Australia will continue for many years to come.

Miles Buckinghamshire.

3 August 2012

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