Horace Frederick ROBINSON
Eyes grey, Hair fair, Complexion fair
Two brothers – signed up together
Henry, older by more than ten years, gave consent for his 19-year-old brother, Horace Frederick Robinson to enlist in the AIF. Both lived in Cowper Street, Granville and had been born in England to John and Mary Robinson. Their father was a career soldier so the eleven children of the marriage were born in various places across England and Ireland as the family followed his military postings. Horace was born in Chatham, Kent while Henry’s birthplace was Aldershot in Hampshire.
After completing schooling at the Gravesend Technical School, Horace emigrated to Australia in about 1913 as a 17-year-old. This may have been precipitated by the death of his mother in 1911. Henry had already emigrated in 1910 and was settling down in Australia having married in 1912 and started a family. Horace lived with his brother and new sister-in-law in Granville and found work as a junior clerk with the Traffic Branch in the New South Wales Tramways Department. His older brother, Henry, was a locomotive fireman with the Railways.
The two brothers enlisted in July 1915 and were assigned to the 30th Battalion, leaving Australia together aboard the HMAT A72 Beltana from Sydney in November.
Egypt and France – he has not written to me yet
Arriving in Egypt in December, the Robinson brothers trained in Egypt with the 30th Battalion for six months and in June 1916 they headed for France.
A whole new world of adventure for young soldiers in the build up to Fromelles:
"….. new experiences for those travelling to Europe for the first time abounded. These included: being billeted in the half-ruined town of Fleurbaix, which lay within two miles of the front line, yet with a remnant of the inhabitants still living among them and selling them eggs and champagne at five francs a bottle; stepping out of a communication trench and strolling across a field to Spy Farm, sheltered by the trees only 800 yards from the line, where the old proprietor and his wife sold them beer as they sat round tables in the farm courtyard and visiting the well-kept tea-rooms in Armentieres. "
Both Horace and his older brother Henry were at Fromelles in time for the battle, but Henry was ill and in hospital from the 17th to the 23rd July. Horace was reported missing in France on 19 July 1916 but details of his part in the battle are unknown.
It must have been a very difficult time for Henry knowing his brother was wounded and also knowing the huge losses suffered by their battalion. The following extract from a much longer letter home was written by Henry just weeks after Fromelles and published in the local newspaper.
Private Horace Robinson – MIA, KIA
Horace was reported as missing after the Battle of Fromelles on 19-20 July 1916 and it was not until March 1917 that his identification disc was returned by the German authorities. The authorities promptly made an official finding that Horace had been killed in action. The identification disc was returned to his father as next of kin in July 1917 - so little to show for a young life lost.
We know so little of how his family in Australia and England reacted to Horace’s death and can only guess at the pain and sense of loss. We do know that he was commemorated on numerous war memorials in Australia, France and England including:
- Panel 117, Australian War Memorial – Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
- VC Corner (panel no 2) – Fromelles, France
- Granville War Memorial Park – Granville, New South Wales
- Railways Traffic Branch, First World War and Second World War Honour Roll, Railway Remembrance Wall, Central Station – Sydney, New South Wales
- Gravesend Grammar School War Memorial – Gravesend, Kent, England
There is also an indication that Horace may have left a grieving girlfriend – though this is supposition on our part as nothing is known of his friend, Kathleen White.
A Military Family
Father - John Robinson (c. 1858 - 1930)
Horace and Henry’s father, John Robinson, had been a career soldier with the Royal Engineers Corp attaining the rank of sergeant major. He enlisted in 1875 and his military postings appear to have been within England and Ireland. After retiring from the army in the mid-1890s, he took up work as a time-keeper at a paper mill and settled in Swanscombe, Kent. Correspondence with military authorities in the early 1920s showed him as still residing in Swanscombe.
Three of his four sons served in the Great War; all three were killed in action.
Son - 1312 Private Horace F. Robinson (1895-1916)
Horace was the youngest son and the first of the Robinson boys to be killed. He was serving with the AIF in Fromelles, France when he died. He has no known grave.
Son - 747 Private Henry James Robinson (1885-1917)
Henry was the 2nd oldest of the four Robinson sons and he served with Horace in the 30th Battalion, AIF. He had suffered a few bouts of illness during his service, including being on the sick list during the Battle of Fromelles and spending some months in England for treatment prior to re-joining his unit in early 1917.
Private Henry Robinson was killed in Belgium on 1st December 1917 and buried in the Bethleem Farm West Military Cemetery in Flanders.
Henry left behind a small family in Granville - his widow, Catherine Mary Robinson nee Treacy (1896-1978) and two children, Kathleen Mary (1912-27) and John Henry (1916-2005).
Baby John was born 26 June 1916 around the time his father and uncle were disembarking in France preparing for the trenches of the Western Front. John Henry Robinson also served in the AIF during the second World War.
Son - G/24471 Lance Corporal William Francis Robinson (1888-1918)
William was born in Kildare, Ireland on 13 November 1888 when his father was stationed at the Curragh Camp. By the 1911 census, he was shown as a 22-year-old cooperage machinist in the cement industry and living in Northfleet, Kent. William had married young to Bessie Dignum in 1907 and in the census the young couple already had two of what would become their family of five – three daughters, two sons.
With the onset of the war, William enlisted in the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment, 23rd Battalion. He was promoted to Lance Corporal and served until just weeks short of the armistice when he was killed on 30 September 1918. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial in Belgium.
Still seeking family
Relatives of Horace Robinson are still being sought. Specifically needed are living males named Robinson, who share a common ancestor with Horace. Those who share DNA with Horace are vital for his identification.
DNA is still being sought for family connections to:
|Soldier||Horace Frederick ROBINSON 1895-1916|
|Parents||Sgt-Major John ROBINSON 1858-1930 born Worldham, Hampshire|
|and Mary Elizabeth SIMPSON (1857-1911) born Binstead, Hampshire|
|Paternal||James ROBINSON (c.1827-1894) born E. Worldham, Hampshire and Mary Anne EARLE (1833-1915) born Binstead, Hampshire.|
|Maternal||Henry SIMPSON (c.1821-1902) born Kingsley, Hampshire and Hannah DAWES (1829-1910) born Binstead, Hampshire.|
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