Tim Rodber says that the story behind the Mobbs Memorial Match has become an inspiration to the rest of his life.
The former Saints captain, who was also an officer in the British Army before embarking on his business career, travelled to the Western Front with BBC Radio Northampton’s Graham McKechnie in the autumn of 2014 to find out more about Edgar Mobbs and the sacrifices made by the Sportsmans Battalion during World War I.
And he says that it has made a lasting impact on him.
“Like any Saintsman I had played in the Mobbs Memorial match and understood some of his story, how he raised a company of men, took them to the Western Front and rose from private soldier to commanding officer,” Rodber writes in the programme for next week’s game.
“I knew he had covered himself in glory and died charging a machine gun position. But to be honest it was the thought of understanding the man as a leader, what motivated him and the sacrifice he made that really got me interested in his story.
“It’s hard to imagine what a battlefield scene is like, particularly when standing in the French countryside with flowing crops and large woodlands surrounding you. It is even harder to imagine the 400 fallen soldiers from the 7th Northamptonshire Regiment after only two days of fighting in the Battle of Loos.
“This was Mobbs’ introduction to the First World War. Standing looking at the open fields in front of me, no cover from fire, flat land, it is no wonder Mobbs and his men were so badly cut up in those two days. Surreally the only evidence I could see today was the scattered remains of shell casings along the margins of the ploughed fields.
“Following the journey Mobbs took, visiting the battlefields, reading the names on the Menin Gate as well as the other memorials we visited, Tyne Cot and Loos, I am still trying to come to terms with the sacrifice. I probably never will.
“The Great War produced many heroes. Understanding Mobbs’ story has given me a far greater appreciation of him as a man and of those around him who laid down their lives. For those of you that don’t have that appreciation I cannot recommend enough visiting the battlefields. I feel better educated about what happened, the scale, the loss and for that I am eternally grateful that this was one trip I didn’t delay.”
Tickets for the 2016 Mobbs Memorial Match between a Northampton Saints XV and the British Army on Wednesday, April 16th, remain available at www.tinyurl.com/Mobbs2016. Adult entry is £10 with juniors, concessions and Armed Forces personnel and veterans able to watch for just £3.