Private, 28038, 15th/48th Royal Highlanders of Canada
Died in hospital at Aubigny, France, 15 May 1918, aged 29
Buried in the Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension,
near the village of Aubigny-en-Artois, Pas de Calais, France
Grave Record IV.K.10

The regimental badge of
the 48th Highlanders of Canada
Click to enlarge

The son of Joseph and Marion Robson, Robert Charles Robson was born at Wych Cross in 1889. The 1891 census records the family living at Wych Cross Post Office where Marion was the postmistress, Joseph working as a 'woodsman'. Their two children are Mary Elizabeth, four years old and Robert Charles, two. Robert's parents were not local to the area, Joseph came from Durham and Marion from London.

There were many changes in Robert's life over the following few years. A baby, Edgar Joseph, was born in late 1891 but died aged five months the following May. Another baby, Edgar John, was born in March 1893. Marion's death, aged 31, was registered that month; possibly she died during or shortly after childbirth. Edgar John died aged seven months.

In February 1895 Joseph, like many widowers with small children, married again. His new wife was Emily Rowlands, from Cuckfield. A baby, Ellis, was born later that year.

In 1901 the family were living at 1 Alpha Cottages, Golf Road, now Chapel Lane. The census shows Joseph and Emily with Robert, now twelve, Ellis, five, and Emily's mother Barbara, who is seventy-eight.

By the 1911 census Robert is working as a gardener at Danehurst, Danehill. This country house with four hundred acres of parkland included a walled garden and gardeners' cottages. Robert, who signed his name as 'Bob' on the census, lived in one of these cottages, sharing with another gardener working at Danehurst. Later in 1911, on 13 September, Robert is a witness at his sister's marriage to Benjamin Potter, also a gardener, at Forest Row church.

Robert later emigrated to Canada. There was encouragement from both the British and Canadian governments for skilled and labouring men, potential wives and female domestic servants to emigrate.

The Dominion of Canada, self-governing since 1867, was seen as a land of opportunity with markets for its products such as grain and furs back in industrialised Britain and elsewhere. The Canadian government paid a bonus to steamship companies for each emigrating passenger who fulfilled particular shortages. A Robert Charles Robson, gardener, destination Welland, Ontario arrived in Canada via Liverpool, on 27 April 1913. He was registered to travel on the Grand Trunk Railway to Welland, his intending to be a fruit farmer, working for a farmer's wife. As a desired emigrant the ship's purser has stamped his entry 'British Bonus Allowed'. Presuming this is the right man Robert's intention is so exact he may have had a contact in Canada via his employers or his own friends.

At the outbreak of war many men born in Britain living in Canada and many thousands of Canadians joined up to fight for the "mother country" and Empire. Canadians were frequently of Scottish descent, the 15th/48th Highlanders had and still has links with Scots regiments as do many others, the cap badge's Gaelic motto "Dileas Cubrath" translating as "forever faithful". The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) was authorised to embark on 1 September 1914, embarked 26 September 1914, and arrived in France on 15 February 1915. By October they were fighting on the Western Front. The battalion fought as part of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division throughout the war.

Robert joined up on 22 September 1914, one of many thousands registered that day at the vast Valcartier camp in Quebec. He entered his sister as 'next of kin'. The birthplaces of recruits include, as well as native-born Canadians, many English and Scottish emigrants.

In Spring 1918 a strong enemy offensive attempted to turn the war in Germany's favour. There was heavy fighting to repulse this although the detailed battalion war diaries record occasional lulls in action. Casualties are recorded, the officers sometimes named but generally only the totals of dead and wounded are given for O.R., 'other ranks'. It could be assumed that Robert was wounded in this offensive and evacuated to hospital. On 15 May the battalion diary gives the programme and entrants' names for the organised sports arranged for that day. Robert Charles Robson died on 15 May 1918.

There is a memorial to the fallen in Queen's Park, Toronto, the regiment's home town.

The regimental memorial of the 48th Highlanders
of Canada in Queen's Park, Toronto
Click to enlarge

The entry in the Forest Row memorial book was signed by his father, Joseph, still living at Alpha Cottages.

Ellis, Robert's half-brother, also joined up in 1914. He served in the Machine Gun Corps, rising to sergeant by the end of the war, returning to marry at Forest Row church in 1919.

Vivien Hill