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Kipper Robinson VC

EMHG member David Hopkins gave a talk on December 16th, reporting notable events in World War I. This is his account of the first of two winners of the Victoria Cross who lived in Langrish.

Eric ‘Kipper’ Gascoigne Robinson was born at Greenwich, London on the 16th May 1882, the third child of the Reverend John Lovell Robinson, and Louisa Aveline Robinson. His father was born in Ireland in 1849, entered the Royal Navy in 1871 and served as a Naval Chaplain.

His nickname was possibly given in recognition of the fact that he was a heavy smoker.

In 1897, aged 15, Robinson joined HMS Britannia, the Navy’s officer training ship, an old wooden-walled vessel which had been laid down in 1860 as the 131-gun Prince of Wales.

He was first appointed midshipman in 1898 to HMS Majestic, which had been launched in 1895 as a first-class battleship. In June 1899 Midshipman Robinson was posted to the cruiser HMS Endymion, and sailed to China. He arrived just in time for the outbreak of the Boxer Rebellion and was involved in the relief of the Siege of Peking.

Following his exploits in China Kipper was promoted to Sub-lieutenant in 1901 and Lieutenant in 1903. In 1905 he joined the torpedo training school HMS Vernon where he was trained in the use of torpedoes, mines and explosives.

In January 1915 he was on board HMS Vengeance (right) when she sailed to the Dardanelles, as part of the attempted invasion which Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, believed would shorten the war.  On February 26th, as a result of his reputation for a cool head, he was given command of a shore station to eliminate some Turkish shore batteries.

The force landed unopposed on the Asiatic shore but as it moved towards the Turkish guns, came under heavy rifle fire. The British sailors were wearing white uniforms, standard issue for tropical Mediterranean postings, which made them extremely easy for Turkish marksmen to spot. The ships fired at the local village demolishing windmills, but firing continued from front and flanks.

Kipper led a small task force of sailors and marines towards Achilles Mound, reputed to be the burial site of the Greek hero of the Trojan Wars. There were two Turkish guns in the hollow at the top of the hill, though it was not clear if soldiers were defending the post.

Seemingly oblivious of the heavy fire and weighed down by the explosives and fuses he was carrying, Lieutenant Robinson walked up to the Turkish guns, and placed the explosives and set the fuses.

He then led his men back down Achilles Mound, to the next battery and into the gun position. In full view of the battleships, Robinson’s slow, deliberate pace gave the appearance of sauntering unperturbed from task to task, despite great danger; his reputation for coolness was further enhanced. As they returned to their boats, they were subjected to heavy Turkish fire, partly relieved by accurate fire from HMS Dublin. Only one marine was killed and three of the party were wounded.

Robinson saw further action in destroying a stranded and top secret British submarine, E15, in April 1915. Others engaged in the same expedition were awarded medals for gallantry but he was not – probably because his commendation for a Victoria Cross at Cumcale was still under consideration. However, he was promoted to full Lieutenant.

After the Great War, he commanded a flotilla of motor torpedo boats in the Caspian Sea during the Russian Civil War. During World War II, he came out of retirement, seeing service on the Atlantic convoys and as officer commanding the naval base in Dundee.

After World War II, Rear Admiral Robinson retired to live in the White House, Langrish. He died on 2nd August, 1965 and was buried at St John the Evangelist’s church, one of two men in the parish who were awarded the Victoria Cross.