South Shields Local History Group

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Robson, Henry Howey VC

Born in Hampden Street, South Shields on February 18, 1894; died Toronto, Canada, March 4, 1964. 

Henry Robson was 20 year old at the time of the award of the Victoria Cross.  He was a Private in the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Scots (The Lothian Regiment), during the First World War.

Robson Howey Henry (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0008747)

In December of 1914 elements of the third division were in the line north of Kemmel, Belgium.  The division were tasked to assist a larger Anglo-French offensive to take the town of Spanbroekmolen and the strategically important Messines Ridge.  On the morning of the 14th December, the third division, were ordered to take the town of Wytschaete.  The 8th Brigade of the division were ordered to take two German positions; a small wood called Petit Bois and Maedelstede Farm, both of which covered the divisions route to Wytchaete itself.  The 2nd Royal Scots were to take the wood and the 1st Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders were to take the farm.  However, a preliminary artillery bombardment was ineffective.  The German barbed wire defences were not cut and the men had to make use of extra wire-cutters and mattresses to assist them through the enemies defensive line.  The Royal Scots took the first German trench but could not go further into the wood having come under heavy fire from the remaining German positions.  They eventually lost 103 men during the attack.  The Gordon’s did not reach their objective, having been beaten back, taking 248 casualties.

It was during this attack that Pte.  Robson successfully rescued a wounded non-commissioned officer, crawling across open ground under intense German fire.  He returned a second time to attempt the rescue of another man but was wounded himself.  He continued in his attempt but was wounded again, which incapacitated him and he was rescued himself, later in the day.

King George V decorated Private Robson with the Victoria Cross at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on July 12th, 1915.  Following this, he became the first soldier of the war to be made a Freeman of the Borough of South Shields in October 1915.

Freedom of the Borough (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0004754)

He returned to the fighting in the trenches but was seriously wounded on the attack of the Serre, on November 13th.  His injuries were so serious it ended his active part in the war. 

Robson Howey Henry 1930s (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0008746)

Following several jobs after the war he sold his medals for £90 to help pay his passage for a new life in Canada.  He died on March 4th 1964 and is buried in Toronto’s York Cemetery.  His Victoria Cross, the armed services highest award for gallantry in face of the enemy, is displayed at the Royal Scots Museum at Edinburgh Castle.

South Shields Local History Group, Sand Dancer Leaflet
The Register of the Victoria Cross

South Tyneside Libraries

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