b. 18/02/1894 South Shields. d. 04/03/1964 Toronto, Canada.
Henry Howey Robson (1894-1964) was born at 40 Hampden Street, South Shields, County Durham on 27th May 1894. He was known in the family as Harry. His father was Edward Robson, a coal miner and his mother was Mary nee Morris, a papermaker. His parents married in Sunderland in 1884. Henry had six brothers and a sister, and was educated at Mortimer Road Council School, South Shields. Thereafter, he became a miner, probably at St Hilda’s Colliery, where his father worked.
Henry enlisted in September 1912 and served firstly at Plymouth in Devon. He arrived with his Battalion in France a week after the declaration of War on 11th August 1914.
On 14th December 1914 at Petit Bois, near Kemmel, Flanders/Belgium, during an attack on a German position, Private Robson left his trench under very heavy fire and rescued a wounded NCO. Subsequently, during another attack, he tried to bring a second wounded man into cover, while exposed to heavy fire. In this attack he was wounded almost at once, but persevered in his efforts until wounded a second time.
Robson was evacuated to England due to the severity of his wounds. His Victoria Cross was presented by King George V to him at Buckingham Palace on 12th July 1915. Three days later he was honoured at a civic reception in South Shields. On 6th October 1915 he received the Freedom of South Shields and during the ceremony was presented with £73 raised through a Shilling Fund by the Mayor of South Shields.
He returned to his old school on 24th May 1916 and was presented with a gold watch by the pupils. Having returned to France on 3rd November, he was wounded at Serre on 13th November and never returned to the front. He then served in the Labour Corps, probably at the Scottish Command Labour Corps Depot, Blairgowie.
Post-war he worked in the shipyards, for the South Shields Corporation Highways Department and as a steward on oil tankers running between Britain and South America for two and a half years. He sold his VC to a doctor for £80 and used the money to pay for his passage to Canada on SS Marburn, arriving at St John, New Brunswick on 18th March 1923. He found employment as a streetcar conductor with the Eglinton Division, Toronto Transportation Commission.
He married Alice Maude nee Martin in Toronto on 9th February 1924, who was a nurse from Portobello, Midlothian, Scotland, who had also emigrated to Canada. They had a son Henry “Harry” Robson born in 1928, and four daughters, all of whom settled in Canada. Henry then became a civil servant in the Parliament Buildings in Ontario in 1934. He was presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Queen’s Park, Toronto on 22nd May 1939. Henry was Sergeant at Arms of the Ontario Legislature for six years and then became an information clerk, showing visitors around Parliament until retirement in 1954. Henry returned to England for the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 and in 1956 for the VC Centenary celebrations. In 1951, his VC had been purchased by a solicitor from Dunfermline, who lent him the medal to wear at the 1956 VC Centenary Review in Hyde Park, London. The medal was never returned to the solicitor.
Henry died at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto on 4th March 1964. He was buried in the Veteran’s Section of York Memorial Cemetery, Toronto. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal of 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. His medals were presented to the Royal Scots Museum, Edinburgh Castle by his daughter, Mrs Patricia Gaskin of Toronto.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL WAR MUSEUM OF SCOTLAND, EDINBURGH.
BURIAL PLACE: YORK CEMETERY, TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA.
The memorial paving stone which was laid in December 2014. It has been placed in Robson Close, South Shields, a road named after him.
Henry Robson's medals on display at The Royal Scots Museum
(Picture - Thomas Stewart).
Robson VC is buried in Plot B, Grave 302
Royal Scots Club, Edinburgh (Thomas Stewart)