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Gordon Mostyn Robinson

Rank: Lance Corporal

Lifetime: 1884-1916

Reference: 47787


Lance Corporal Gordon Mostyn Robinson (47787) of the Royal Canadian Regiment died aged 32 on 8 October 1916. He is buried at Regina Trench Cemetery, Courcelette (about 5½ miles North East of Albert). He is not listed on the Hampton Wick War Memorial but his Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry refers to him as the son of Mark and Louisa Robinson of Struan, Fasset Road, Kingston-upon-Thames, and a “native” of Hampton Wick (which should mean he was born in the village).

His Canadian Attestation Paper survives and reveals that he enlisted on 23 August 1915 in Halifax, under the service number 7762, originally into the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. According to his Attestation Paper, he had been born in Hampton Wick on 29 June 1884 and so at the time he enlisted he was 31 years of age. He was unmarried and so named his mother, Mrs Mark Robinson, as his next of kin. His occupation was said to be as a clerk. He was 5’10½” tall with a small chest measurement of 31” (34½” inches when expanded). His complexion is described as fair and he had blue eyes and light brown hair. His religion was Church of England.

Gordon Mostyn Robinson had emigrated to Canada from Kingston. At the time of the 1891 Census he was living, aged 6, at 54 Fasset Road, Canbury, Kingston-upon-Thames with his parents, Mark Heaton Robinson (47), a mechanical engineer, and Emma Louisa Robinson (44), together with his six older sisters (Eleanor (24); Mabel Beatrice (21); Edith (20); Evelyn Marion (15); Alice Caroline (14) and Margaret Louisa Kathleen (8)) as well as two younger brothers (Douglas Gwyn (4) and Eric Watney (2)). The family had obviously lived in Hampton Wick from at least 1866 until 1877 as the five oldest girls were all born in the village.

By the time Margaret was born in 1883 the family had moved to Teddington where Gordon was also born (in spite of his claim in his Attestation Paper to originate from Hampton Wick). His younger brothers were born in Kingston and (oddly) Hastings respectively. Although Gordon may not actually have been born in Hampton Wick (unlike his older brothers and sisters), the family obviously felt some affinity for the village and Gordon was baptised at St John the Baptist’s, Hampton Wick, on 24 July 1884 when the family’s abode was given as Teddington.

Although the Robinson household as listed in the 1891 Census appears to have been huge, in fact, some of the couple’s children were not actually included in this Census Entry. We know from their 1911 Census entries that the couple had, in fact, produced sixteen children, all of whom were still living at that date. A number of the older children are missing from the 1891 Census (although alive at this date): Edward Mark (born in 1866); Frances Amelia (born in 1872) and Theresa Henrietta (born 1873). They were all born in Hampton Wick. In addition, we know of Lionel Inglis (born in 1877 in Kingston); Gerald Heaton (born 1879 in Teddington); Herbert W (born 1880 in Teddington) and Lewis Denham (born 1881 in Teddington).

The reason why some of the older boys may have been “missing” becomes clearer in the light of the 1901 Census when Gordon Mostyn Robinson and his two younger brothers, Douglas and Eric, were absent from the family home because they were boarders at Abbotsholme School in Doveridge, Derbyshire, a small school run by the Reddie family. It is likely that whilst the eldest three may have already left home, the other boys may have been absent from the family home because they had also been sent away to school.

Lance Corporal Robinson’s father, Mark Heaton Robinson, led an extremely interesting life. He was born in Sheerness in Kent on 29 March 1844. However, by 1851 he was living in Crown Crescent, Twickenham (a prosperous middle class area near the Crown Inn in Marble Hill), with his parents, Edward Robinson (57), an officer in the Royal Navy, and Amelia (40) who was from Richmond.

By the time of the 1861 Census Lance Corporal Robinson’s father was boarding at Church House College School in Merton, a small school of about thirty five pupils. The Merton Historical Society published a fascinating paper (Bulletin 172) on the school in December 2009. The school had been founded in July 1849 by the French born Adolphe de Chastelain opposite the church of St Mary in Merton. The building was Tudor in origin but had been remodelled in the Georgian period. It was a substantial building with 40 rooms and had been used until 1845 as a workhouse for the poor of Bermondsey. Mr de Chastelain and his English wife established a school which appears to have specialised in languages. He employed a Classical Tutor, a Professor of German and a Professor of French to teach boys ranging in age from 6 to 17 as well as female staff to teach girl pupils. The original proprietor died in 1857 with the sublease being taken on by Revd George Elliott who perhaps continued the school.

By 1861, when Mark Heaton Robinson was a pupil, the school was being run by the original proprietor’s son, (Alfred) George de Chastelain, and his widowed mother. Mark Heaton Robinson’s time at the school may have overlapped with Robert Williams Buchanan (1841-1901), an important Victorian literary figure now largely remembered for his criticism of D G Rossetti’s poetry but interesting in the context of Hampton Wick in connection with his reminiscences of his school there: the food was apparently so meagre that he was reduced to eating snails from the garden to stave off hunger!

We know a little of Mark Heaton Robinson’s subsequent life because of his proposal form for membership of the Institute of Civil Engineers dated 21 March 1893 which sets out in detail his career. From this we learn that from 1861 until 1874 (when he was living in the village), he was employed in the administrative strand of the Admiralty. On 27 July 1864 he married Emma Louisa Webb in St Mathias in Richmond. Both parties were minors and both were from solidly middleclass stock. Mark Heaton Robinson’s father is described as a commander in the Royal Navy and Emma’s father, Valentine Baker Webb, was a surgeon. By 1871 Mark Heaton Robinson (27) and his wife Emma (24) were living in Hampton Wick in a house in the Lower Teddington Road with four children who had all been born in the village: Eleanor (4); Edward (3) Mabel (1) and Edith (3 months).

From 1874 until 1880 Mark Heaton Watson was the Manager of Watney’s brewery in Pimilico. In fact he must have remained at the brewery a little longer as in the 1881 Census, when the family were living at Emberfield, Broom Road, Teddington, he still gives his occupation as manager of a brewery. At any rate, at some point in 1881 he joined Mr P ?William as a partner in the firm of Williams & Robinson (engineers and steam launch builders). Before joining the partnership he seems to have already established a private workshop for the manufacture of a boat disembarking apparatus which he designed and which was exclusively used by the Royal Navy. Subsequently he invented and patented various compressed air systems and improvements to the engines used in single handling steam ships. In March 1888 he was proposed and accepted as a member of the Institute of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians (which had only been incorporated five years earlier). At this date he gives his address on his application as Fassett Road, Surbiton.

By 1893 when Mark Heaton Robinson was nominated to join the Institute of Civil Engineers, his partner had died and so he was the chief managing director and chairman of Williams & Robinson Ltd. He had designed and superintended the construction of various small vessels built by the firm and various works on land. He appears to have been operating out of Ferry Works, Thames Ditton, which perhaps explains his move to the other side of the Thames. In spite of having such a huge family, he appears to have lived to a reasonably prosperous old age. He died on 2 February 1923. He was still living at Struan, Fassett Road, Kingston-upon-Thames and left a reasonable estate worth £453 5s 7d to his widow and son, Lionel Inglis Robinson.

With such a large family and with the example of his entrepreneurial father, it is perhaps not surprising that Lance Corporal Robinson decided to emigrate to Canada to seek his fortune. He does not appear in the UK Census for 1911 as he had, according to the records contained in the Canadian Passenger Lists, left Liverpool on the Megantic arriving at Quebec on 22 May 1910.

The Canadian Government was actively encouraging immigrants to come from Britain at this time. It had established an emigration office in 1903 in Trafalgar House, Trafalgar Square, London, to encourage emigration to Canada. Immigration to Canada was about to peak in 1912 and 1913. We learn from his immigration record that at 25 he was able to read and write, intended to permanently remain in Canada and had visited Canada previously. Although he gave his occupation as a clerk (which was his occupation when he attested), he states that he intended to take up farming and that he had studied farming as a pupil. His ultimate destination was given as Woodstock, Ontario (although he actually enlisted in Halifax).

A year after the Declaration of War, Gordon volunteered to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The Canadian Parliament didn’t vote to enter the war in August 1914. As the country’s foreign policy was controlled by Britain when the British ultimatum to Germany to withdraw from Belgium expired on 4 August 1914 Canada was automatically drawn into the European war. The outbreak of war was greeted with patriotic fervour in Canada with 33,000 volunteers immediately joining up.

By the time Lance Corporal Robinson volunteered the Canadian Expeditionary Force had already expanded to a force of 150,000 men. However, the supply of volunteers was starting to dry up as news of Canadian casualties was reported. Casualties were probably increased by the use of defective Canadian made Ross rifles and the deployment of cronies of the government to command the forces. By the end of the war Canada had lost 66,000 men and suffered 172,000 wounded at a time when the total population was only 8 million. Canada had won itself nation status with a seat at the Peace Treaty and membership in its own right at the League of Nations.

On 8 October 1916 Lance Corporal Robinson, according to his entry in the Canadian War Grave Registers (Circumstances of Casualty 1914-1918), was killed in action. At first for official purposes he was presumed to have died but later was actually reported as killed in action. His position at the time of his casualty was North of Courcelette. Probate of his estate was only belatedly granted to his older brother, Lionel Inglis Robinson, an engineer like their father, on 4 May 1938.

The first phase of this Project is to gather information about the men commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial who fought in the Great War, also known as World War I, WWI or the First World War.

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