by Helen Moon
This blog focuses on one man who served with the Royal Artillery, but also is about two other men, both of whom were Gunners. They are all in some way connected to a single person in Woolwich, Mrs Barbara Robinson, showing just how numerous the connections to the RA in this area can be.
Henry Robinson was born in 1854 and joined the Royal Regiment of Artillery on 26th September 1874, aged 20. For the first eight years of his service, he was based in the UK, in Woolwich, Trowbridge and Aldershot. In late 1882, he boarded the SS Grecian and sailed to Egypt for service there.
Whilst in Egypt, he took part in the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1883. There, a British Army force decisively defeated the Egyptian Army, as part of a campaign to protect the UK’s political and economic interests in the country. For being part of this Imperial campaign, Robinson was awarded both the Khedive Star and Egypt Medal.
He returned to the UK in 1884, serving again in Woolwich, then in Ireland. From 1891 to his leaving the Army in 1894, he was based in India, giving some idea of just how much movement around the world would be required of soldiers of the era. He returned to the UK and lived in and around London for the rest of his life, dying in 1925.
Robinson appears to have had a rather chequered military career. His service record is filled with both promotions (even reaching the rank of Sergeant in 1884), but demotions too. The reasons are not recorded, though it has been suggested that the causes may have been alcohol-related, a common problem in the British Army.
Robinson’s son, Henry Albert Victor Robinson, also joined the RA, following in his father’s footsteps. Born in 1897, he served, and was wounded, in World War I and is Mrs Robinson’s father-in-law. Her own father, James Harry George Reed, was also a Gunner, serving in World War II. He was called up in 1942-43, at the age of 40, considerably older than would have been the case in peacetime, and showing the enormous demands made on manpower during the conflict. He mainly served on the Home Front, manning an Anti-Aircraft gun, although he did also have some service in Belgium right at the war’s end.
Thank you to Barbara Robinson for sharing the stories of her three family members with us. If you have family members that you would like to discover more about, then Greenwich Heritage Centre’s Search Room team can assist you. Contact us, or visit us on the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich to see what we can do for you.
If you have a story of your own that would like to share, then please either put it in a comment below, or contact Greenwich Heritage Centre on 020 8854 2452.