William Robinson
28 December 1887 - 7 June 1918

Researched and written by Gail Fynes

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Picture 1

William Robinson (seated on the right)

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William Robinson (on the right)

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William ROBINSON was born on the 28th December 1887 (registered March Quarter 1888), at Woodhouses, being the fifth child of William Robinson and his wife Ellen nee Bridgwater.

Extract from the 1891 census

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Transcriotion of the extract from the 1891 census

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By the time of the 1901 Census the family had moved to Jubilee Cottage, Gorstey Ley. Another child Alice had been born in 1892. Older son Arthur had already joined the army and at the age of 17 was a private in the Infantry Line based at Chatham Barracks. Sister Ellen was in domestic service at Tamworth.

Extract from the 1901 census

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Transcription of the extract from the 1901 census

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Extract from the 1901 census for Arthur Robinson

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Transcription of the extract from the 1901 census for Arthur Robinson

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The 1911 Census finds the family living at Jubilee Cottage, Rugley Road, Burntwood. Arthur is out of the Amy and working as a Coal Miner Hewer. William is a Surface Colliery Labourer.

Extract from the 1911 census

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Transcription of the extract from the 1911 census

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William's elder brother Arthur was born in Woodhouses in 1883. He was probably called up early in the war as he had previously been in the army. He received the 1914 Star which means he was in France and saw active service before 31 December 1915.

Private William Robinson joined the  1/6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment and was given the regimental number 4479; he was later transfered to the   8th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment and given a new regimental number, 40842. 

William was killed on the 7th June 1917 at Oostterverne Wood, Ypres. No trace was found of his body, so his parents William and Ellen had his name and details enscribed on the gravestone, also at the Christchurch War Memorial, Burntwood.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate commemorating Private William Robinson

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1/6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment (Territorial Force)

On 4 August 1914 the 1/6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment was stationed at Burton-on-Trent as part of the Staffordshire Brigade of the North Midland Division and they then moved to the Luton area, and then Bishops Stortford.

On 4 March 1915 they mobilised for war and landed in France where the formation became the 137th Brigade of the 46th Division. They took part in various actions

During 1915
The German liquid fire attack at Hooge, The attack at the Hohenzollern Redoubt. 
Jan 1916
Moved to Egypt.
Feb 1916
Returned to France and the Division engaged in various actions on the Western Front including; The diversionary attack at Gommecourt.
During 1917
Operations on the Ancre, Occupation of the Gommecourt defences, The attack on Rettemoy Graben, The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The attack on Lievin, The Battle of Hill 70.
During 1918
The Battle of the St Quentin canal, The Battle of the Beaurevoir Line, The Battle of Cambrai, The Battle of the Selle, The Battle of Sambre.

On 11 November 1918 they ended the war in France, Sains du Nord S.E. of Avesnes.

[Details courtesy of the Forces War Records website]
 

8th (Service) Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment

The 8th (Service) Battalion North Staffordshire Regument was formed at Lichfield on 18 September 1914 as part of the Second New Army (K2) and became part of the 57th Brigade of the 19th (Western) Division. They moved to Salibury Plain for training and went into billets in Bristol in December 1914 and in February 1915 moved to Weston-super-Mare before going to Tidworth in April. and moved to Salisbury Plain, and then Bristol.
Feb 1915 Moved to Weston-super-Mare and then Tidworth.

On 18 July 1915They mobilised for war and  landed in France on 18 July 1916 where they engaged in various action on the Western Front including:

During 1915
The Action of Pietre. 
During 1916
The Battle of Albert, The attacks on High Wood, The Battle of Pozieres Ridge, The Battle of the Ancre Heights, The Battle of the Ancre. 
During 1917
The Battle of Messines, The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, The Battle of Polygon Wood, The Battle of Broodseinde, The Battle of Poelcapelle, First Battle of Passchendaele, The Second Battle of Passchendaele. 
The 8th Btn. North Staffordshire Regiment served with the 19th Division near the Hollandscheschurr Farm mines, during the 1917 Battle of Messines.
During 1918
7 February 1918 they transferred to the 56th Brigade of the 19th Division and continued to fight on the Western Front:
The Battle of St Quentin, The Battle of Bapaume, The Battle of Messines, The Battle of Bailleul, The First Battle of Kemmel Ridge, The Battle of the Aisne, The Battle of the Selle, The Battle of the Sambre. 

On 11 November 1918 they ended the war in France, at Bry west of Bavai.

[Details courtesy of the Forces War Records website

Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914 – 1918
Soldier details

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Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial

Visiting Information
Panel Numbers quoted at the end of each entry relate to the panels dedicated to the Regiment with which the casualty served. In some instances, where a casualty is recorded as attached to another Regiment, his name may appear within their Regimental Panels. Please refer to the on-site Memorial Register Introduction. The Addenda Panel lists those service personnel whose details are awaiting addition to the Regimental Panels. All odd panel numbers are on the North side of the road and even numbers are located on the South side of the road. Steps on either side of the memorial leading to the rear of the memorial, make wheel-chair access to the rear impossible. There is however, a slope at the side of the memorial which gives wheelchair users some access but due to the incline, it may not be possible to ascend/descend unaided.
Location Information
Ypres (now Ieper) is a town in the Province of West Flanders. The Memorial is situated at the eastern side of the town on the road to Menin (Menen) and Courtrai (Kortrijk). Each night at 8 pm the traffic is stopped at the Menin Gate while members of the local Fire Brigade sound the Last Post in the roadway under the Memorial's arches.
Historical Information
The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war. The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence. There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele. The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September. The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites. The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates those of all Commonwealth nations, except New Zealand, who died in the Salient, in the case of United Kingdom casualties before 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). Those United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. Other New Zealand casualties are commemorated on memorials at Buttes New British Cemetery and Messines Ridge British Cemetery. The YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick, was unveiled by Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927.
Number of Identified Casualties   54615

These extracts are courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

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WILLIAM ROBINSON is commemorated on Panel 55, Menin Gate plan, Ypres, Belgium

Great Britain Great War Casualties 1914-1918

 

The Battle of Messines - 7th June, 1917 - and Mine Warfare

Map of the Ypres region. William was killed at Oosttaverne Woods on 7th June 1917.

Map of the Ypres region.
William was killed at Oosttaverne Woods on 7th June 1917.

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Map of the Battle of Messines 1917

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Ruined German stronghold on Messines Ridge
For two and a half years the Germans on Messines Ridge had dominated Ypres Salient. On June 7th, 1917, the British carried the ridge and reduced to dust positions previously deemed impregnable.

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At 0310 hrs on Thursday 7th June, 1917 the British Second Army under General Sir Herbert PLUMER started an attack which in three hours resulted in the capture of the whole of the Messines Ridge on the South side of the Ypres Salient.

The attack effectively began on 3rd June when the preliminary bombardment intensified, and was kept up until 0250 hrs on 7th June. By this time, 100 000 men of the Second Army were lying in position waiting to attack. The weather was clear with a bright moon. The sudden silence spooked the Germans who started firing flares in an effort find an explanation. Twenty minutes of tension packed waiting culminated in a loud bang, followed seven seconds later by a continuous series of huge explosions which tore at the German front line and threw the watching British, 400 metres away, off their feet.

The British rose from their trenches under cover of the renewed barrage of every gun available. Nine divisions of infantry advanced through the clouds of smoke and dust and within minutes, the whole of the German front line was in British hands. Three hours later, the whole of the Messines Ridge was taken. No official figures were ever released regarding German casualties but there were 7,354 prisoners taken. There were 10,000 reported missing and over 6 000 known dead. British casualties numbered 16,000 of which about 30% were killed.

The success of the assault was in large part due to the explosion of 19 mines tunnelled under the German front line. Preparation work started in 1915 but it was only in the winter of 1916 that serious preparations took place. Twenty two mines were dug, some up to 2160 feet (658 metres) long and up to 125 feet (38 metres) deep. One mine (at Petite Douve Farm) was discovered by German counter miners on 24th August 1916 and destroyed. Two mines close to Ploegsteert Wood were not exploded as they were outside the attack area, more about these mines later.

The explosion was heard by David Lloyd GEORGE, the British Prime Minister who was in his study in 10 Downing Street in London, there is even a report of an insomniac student hearing it in University College, Dublin.

The two unexploded mines were planned to be dismantled by the British but with the impending start of the Third Battle of Ypres, there was always something else to do. When the Germans launched their Lys Offensive in April, 1918, the British HQ was overrun and documents relating to the two mines were lost and they never were dug up. The precise location of them was not known and they were forgotten until during a thunderstorm on 17th July, 1955, one of them exploded. No one was killed but the explosion did some slight damage to some distant property. The other mine is still, as far as anyone knows, still lurking under the Flanders countryside. 

Extract from "War Underground - The Tunnellers of the Great War" by Alexander Barrie and courtesey of Ian Jones 

A view from a German pillbox down towards the Allied lines (approx where the farm stands today), this gives a clear indication of the supremacy the Germans had over the British in regard to position.

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A preserved German pillbox on Messines Ridge.

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Item, Source and Credit

1.   Photograph of William Robinson © Gayle Fynes
2.   Photograph of William Robinson (on the left) © Gayle Fynes
3.   Photograph of William Robinson (seated on the right) © Gayle Fynes
4.   Photograph of William Robinson (on the right) © Gayle Fynes
5.   Extract from the 1891 census © Ancestry
6.   Transcription of the extract from the 1891 census © Ancestry
7.   Extract from the 1901 census © Ancestry
8.   Transcription of the extract from the 1901 census © Ancestry
9.   Extract from the 1901 census for Arthur Robinson © Ancestry
10.  Transcription of the extract from the 1901 census for Arthur Robinson © Ancestry
11.  Extract from the 1911 census © Ancestry
12.  Transcription of the extract from the 1911 census © Ancestry
13.  Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate commemorating Private William Robinson ©Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org/)
14.  Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914 – 1918: Soldier Details © Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org/)
15.  Photograph of the Menin Gate © Trip Advisor website (tripadvisor.co.uk/)
16.  Photograph of the Menin Gate © Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org/)
17.  Photograph of the Menin Gate © Bensons Travel website (http://bensonstravel.com/)
18.  Plan showing the layout of the panels on the Menin Gate © Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org/)
19.  Map of the Ypres region © Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org/)
20.  Map of the Battle of Messines 1917 © Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org/)
21.  Ruined German stronghold on Messines Ridge © Imperial War Museum (https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205237618)
22.  View from a German pill box on Messines Ridge © YPRES AND THE GREAT WAR website  (http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~dccfarr/Messines.htm) and Simon Farr
23.  German pill box on Messines Ridge © YPRES AND THE GREAT WAR website  (http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~dccfarr/Messines.htm) and Simon Farr