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The picture of Lt-Cdr Robinson did not appear in the on-line version (as it did in the paper), but he's pictured sporting 'Standard Dive Rig' (i.e. brass hat, lead chest plate and boots, waxed-canvass suit etc.) Either way, he lead no mean life as an RN Diver! We owe guys like this a debt of honour and gratitude; may he rest in peace.



Lt-Cdr Robbie Robinson
(Filed: 13/03/2004)


Lieutenant-Commander Robbie Robinson, who has died aged 82, was a diver charged with clearing the Normandy beaches on June 6 1944.

As a member of a landing craft obstruction clearance unit, Petty Officer Robinson had the task of opening a path through the booby-trapped obstacles on the beaches below the high water mark. This meant defusing improvised and unfamiliar deadly explosives on the shore and underwater while being sniped at and sprayed with machine-gun fire.

The unexpectedly heavy surf made his task all the more tiring, but after opening an initial path his team had cleared a gap in the enemy defences 1,000yds by 400yds by the end of the first day. Eventually, he helped to clear more than 2,500 obstacles.

Two other naval divers were killed during these operations and 10 injured. Robinson himself was knocked out when six feet underwater by an explosion that left him paralysed for several hours. A Royal Engineer working close by was killed outright, but Robinson was saved by a specially designed Kapok jacket under his diving suit. Although he was left with back trouble ever after, he returned to work on the beaches and harbour of Cherbourg a couple of days later.

Ronald Stephen Colin Robinson was born on August 1 1921. His father, a gunner who had won the Military Medal in the First World War, was the Royal Horse Artillery's saddler on Mauritius from 1926 to 1931. Young Robbie returned home to complete his education at the Roan School, Blackheath, and the London Nautical School before joining the Navy as a boy signalman, or "bunting tosser", in 1936.

He was in the cruiser Ajax, which was the first ship in action during the Second World War when she captured two German merchant ships on the first and second days. At the battle of the River Plate in December 1939, when Commodore Harwood's three cruisers drove the German pocket battleship Graf Spee into Montevideo where she was scuttled; Robinson was wounded in the knee when Ajax's bridge and flagdeck were hit by a shell, bringing the foremast down.

In the victory parade through Plymouth, Robinson remembered two women in the cheering crowd commenting, "They're only kids".

After service in Ajax in the Mediterranean against the Italians off Calabria and Matapan and during the evacuation of Crete, Robinson learned to dive in Alexandria. Unable to progress as a signalman - because some "bloody fool" had recommended him for a commission - he transferred to the seaman branch so he could obtain needed sea-time.

He served on three transatlantic convoys, and was fortunate to be rescued when the Flower class corvette Auricula was sunk in May 1942. Three months later he was a member of a beach clearance party during Operation Jubilee, the disastrous raid on Dieppe.

After D-Day, Robinson was drafted as spare crew to the submarines Truant, Torbay and Trident. Surprisingly for a "bubblehead" (as naval divers are known), he found submarines claustrophobic, and was pleased to be lent to the Royal Indian Navy from 1945 to 1947, initially serving in a motor launch during preparations for the Arakan campaign.

During the Korean War Robinson served with 41 Independent Company, Royal Marines, as a demolition specialist. It was attached to the US Marine Corps, and formed the rearguard at the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir. On returning to Britain, Robinson was not amused to be told that this counted as shore service and he was now top of the roster to go to sea.

Soon afterwards he was promoted Commissioned Gunner and appointed to the destroyer Crossbow in 1953. From 1967 to 1968 he commanded the Ton class minesweeper Laleston, where he recognised the talent of one of his young officers, Nigel Essenhigh, who would become First Sea Lord.

However, Robinson's command ended prematurely when he was thrown across the bridge in a storm in the North Sea and injured his back again. He was sent to the sick quarters of HMS Ganges, at Shotley, the shore establishment where he had begun his training before the war; the boy trainees were impressed that he had started his career like one of them.

For his last appointment in the Navy in 1971, Robinson briefly commanded the cruiser Belfast before handing her over to the museum authorities. Surprisingly, despite his array of campaign medals and the dangers he had met, his only honour was an MBE.

Robinson was a prodigious reader of literature, philosophy and history. When asked to draft a speech for a senior officer, he larded it with Latin tags only to receive his draft back marked: "I'm a Captain Royal Navy, not a Roman centurion!"

In retirement Robinson served for many years with the Weapons Trials Team at HMS Vernon, the Navy's school of underwater warfare founded in 1876, where torpedomen, the Navy's specialists in torpedo, mine, anti-submarine warfare and ship's electrics, were trained. When Vernon was closed, Robinson, who had qualified as a torpedoman in 1943, turned out the lights and locked the doors after 113 years at the Gunwharf (now a shopping and housing complex in Portsmouth).

Always cheerful, with a fund of salty stories, when he became too ill to attend reunion dinners he always sent a cheque to put behind the bar so that his friends could drink with him.

Robinson, who died on February 26, married his childhood sweetheart, Gweneth Longman, in 1944. When she died in 1990, he continued with his longstanding practice of writing her a verse a day. He is survived by their son.
 

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'Actual Yorkshireman'
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Amen to that Bren

May he rest in peace
 

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DUE CEO, Booking agent, Coffee maker & Dogsbody...
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Bloody 'ell "Balls that Clang" or what,

Retreat from the 'Frozen Chosin' shore leave!!!!!! I'd have been a bit pissed over that one.

Talk about service, so many MAJOR Battles and Operations:-

Ajax at The River Plate
Matapan
Crete
Atlantic Convoys
Dieppe (A disaster that fortunatly planners learnt from)
Normandy
Arakan Peninsular

A real war hero who certainly went through the grinder.

Hopefully a summary of that career will be put up in a military establishment somewhere so he is not forgotten.

Regards

Paul
 

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DUE CEO, Booking agent, Coffee maker & Dogsbody...
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Aymen to that

This guy was the stuff of legends, pure quality and guts.

That really is a unique service record.

Regards

Paul
 

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Finless: You couldn't invent him...
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Kind of puts my life into perspective - v/small.

A brave man.
 

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The King Of The Divan
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A life less ordinary..... indeed.

Given all of his incredible endeavours it is also easy to lose sight of 2 remarkable bits that would put a lot of us to shame.

- writing verse to his wife
- putting a cheque behind the bar for his mates.

Simon
 
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