Name: Arthur Benison Hubback
Date in Command of 1/20th: February 26th 1915 to February 15th 1916
Date of Birth: March 26th 1862
Place of Birth: Dovercourt, Essex, England
Date of Death: June 17th 1951
Place of Death: Kent, England
Father: Joseph Hubback
Mother: Georgina Benison
Siblings: Geogina Hubback
Theodore Rathbone Hubback
Joseph Guy Hubback
George Clay Hubback
Hubback, Arthur Benison (1871–1948), architect and army officer, was born on 13 April 1871 at 74 Rodney Street, Liverpool, the eldest of the three sons and two daughters of Joseph Hubback (1814–1882), merchant and lord mayor (in 1870) of Liverpool, and his third wife, Georgina, née Eliott-Lockhart. Joseph Hubback's death in 1882 left his widow to bring up five young children, but Arthur Hubback went to Fettes College, Edinburgh (1884–1887), on a scholarship, and was then articled to the city architect in Liverpool.
Hubback began his Malayan career in July 1895 as chief draughtsman of the Selangor public works department, when it was fully extended in the construction of new government offices (later the Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad), which the forceful state engineer, Charles Edwin Spooner, had decided should be designed in an eclectic style, new to Malaya, variously known as neo-saracenic or British raj. It had originated in India by a process of ‘architectural miscegenation’ (Davies, 188) that combined Indian Muslim, Hindu, Gothic, and other traditions, as an expression of imperial achievement. Apart from its novelty this style posed structural problems which led Kuala Lumpur ‘old hands’ to predict the collapse of the central tower. But a century later it stood to prove the sceptics wrong. On its completion Hubback left the government service for private practice, but he returned in 1901, and until 1914 he designed a number of large public buildings in the same style though with ingenious variations, including a state mosque (1909), and main railway stations in Kuala Lumpur (1911) and in Hong Kong (Kowloon, 1913). He became an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1905 and a fellow in 1909. In 1901 he married Margaret Rose Frances (Daisy) Voules, daughter of Sir Gordon Blennerhassett Voules, a judge in India, and sister of a Malayan colleague, Arthur Blennerhassett Voules; they had a son and a daughter. Hubback captained the Selangor cricket team, though he could not equal his brother Theodore [see below], who, keeping wicket for Lancashire, caught W. G. Grace and then hit forty runs off the doctor's bowling. Both were outstanding games players.
Arthur Hubback was also prominent in what became the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force, used both for local defence and in support of the police in maintaining law and order. Under a commandant who lacked any idea of suitable training the new force, formed in 1902, had declined in numbers and morale. When Hubback took charge in 1907 he moved from ‘uninteresting’ barrack square drill to training at weekend camps in musketry and tactical movement (Wright and Cartwright, 598). The force then grew rapidly in strength and efficiency, and a contingent under Hubback attended the coronation of George V in 1911.
On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Hubback joined the 19th battalion, London (territorial) regiment, as a major. In the course of service in France he rose to the command of a brigade, was wounded, mentioned six times in dispatches, appointed CMG (1916) and DSO (1918). As early as 1916 he had considered transferring to the British regular army, and he did not return to a post-war Malaya that lacked the means and exuberance needed to continue building as it had done up to 1914. He commanded (from 1920 to 1924) the 5th London infantry brigade of the territorial army and then retired. He does not appear to have resumed practice as an architect after 1914. During the Second World War he held a senior post in Hertfordshire in the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Family Association, the leading armed services family welfare organization. He died at his home, 4 The Hollies, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on 8 May 1948, of heart failure. He was survived by his wife and two children. His son, (Arthur) Gordon Voules Hubback (1902–1970), naval officer, was knighted in 1957.
Hubback's architectural achievements and his reforms of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force, followed by a distinguished war record, show that he had versatile ability as well as strong character. J. H. M. Robson, in his Records and Recollections (1934), included both Hubback and his brother Theodore in his list of the ‘men who absolutely identified themselves in the interests of the people of Malaya, irrespective of race’ (Robson, 2001 edn, 29).