Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lieutenant George Alexander Robbie - Patea Memorial

George Robbie the son of James and Isabella Robbie was born in Canterbury in 1875.  He pursued a career as a school teacher and in 1909 he was appointed Headmaster at Patea District School.

He married Edith Emily Johnston in 1904 at Nelson Cathedral and as far as I can find they had no children.  From what I can gather from newspaper clippings he was a popular and active member of the Patea community.

In May 1915 he notified the Education Board of his intention to volunteer he was approaching his fortieth birthday.  He enlisted on 14 July 1915 and embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 13 November 1915.  He gained a commission and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in December 1916 and was transferred to the Wellington Infantry Battalion.   He was killed in action on 21/22nd July 1917 he was 42 years old.  Below is an account from  'The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914 - 1919' reproduced on of the action which led to his death:

'It was left to Ruahine Company to discover on the night of the 21st July, what wiring he had been doing in the hedgerows. We knew there was a machine-gun post behind the hedge, in a corner of the field opposite No. 3 Post, and at midnight a detachment of the First Light Trench Mortar Battery, under Lieut. R. K. Nicol, fired sixty Stokes bombs into the position, and at ten minutes past twelve, the 15th Howitzer Battery N.Z.F.A., placed three salvos at a point about 200 yards behind. The machine-gun was evidently hit by the Stokes, because it was not brought into action by the enemy. The Stokes gun is liable to fire so rapidly that eight bombs are in the air together, and the effect of sixty bombs exploding in a very short space of time can be imagined. Directly Lieut. Nicol ceased fire, Lieut. G. A. Robbie led forward his fourteen men and struck the hedge about 150 yards from the corner. They found it heavily wired, and exchanged bombs with some Germans on the other side; apparently with some effect, for groans were heard. Here, unhappily, Lieut. Robbie was mortally wounded by a bullet from a rifle fired through the hedge'

Once the action was completed a stretcher was sent for to collect Lieut. Robbie but unfortunately he died before it got to him.  He was buried the next day.  Today he lies in the Mud Corner Cemetery, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.

In April 1918 a large photograph of George Robbie was unveiled and hung at Patea District School by the community, I wonder if it is still there today?

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