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War Memorials

In Memory of
Acting Bombardier 77349
139 Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Who Died on Tuesday, 5th December 1916
Age 32

Plot XX Row E Grave 4 Etaples Military Cemetery, Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Etaples Military Cemetery

Etaples Military Cemetery, Somme, France1

Percival Robinson was born in Beeston, Notts in July 18842, the second child, eldest son of William (b. c1859 Beeston) and Elizabeth Robinson (b. c1860, Beeston, née Clements). William had started his career as a silk mill hand but soon established himself as a lace manufacturer. In 1901 he and his wife and family of four were living at 27 Chilwell Road, Beeston and was employing others in his lace business. Percival, then aged 16 and described as a lace warehouseman, had apparently joined his father in the business3. In 1911, the family were still at the same address with father and both sons working in the lace trade - Percival as a warehouseman, William jnr as a draughtsman4.

As Percival's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted with the Royal Garrison Artillery but, from what evidence we have, it was probably early in 19165. The Royal Garrison Artillery had developed as a separate part of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, armed with heavy, large calibre guns and howitzers - some road or rail mounted - intended to destroy or neutralise the enemy artillery, as well as putting immensely destructive fire down on strongpoints, dumps, stores, roads and railways behind enemy lines. It was organised into Batteries, each consisting of about six officers, a similar number of NCOs and upwards of 200 men6.

On 1st August 1916, having completed their training, the officers and men of 139 Siege Battery left the mobilisation centre at Stockcross, near Newbury, Berkshire, by train to Southampton where they embarked for Havre. After two days in the docks rest camp there, they traveled by train to Rouen and on to Savy. From there they were taken to Arras where they joined 5th H A Group, VI Corps, Third Army and were assigned 4 6" 26cwt Howitzers which were moved into position at Beaufort, near Avesnes-le-Compte, by MT No 36 Co. Army Service Corps which was attached to the Battery. During the following weeks, the battery settled in to the daily routine of firing at both specific and more general targets, moving about the northern France and Somme regions, while the weather deteriorated around them7. At some point, Gunner Robinson was promoted to Acting Bombardier, an appointment similar to lance-corporal in the infantry units, which was renamed Lance-Bombardier in early 1918.

At some point, probably during November 1916, Percival was taken ill and moved to No 11 General Hospital, which was then operating at Camiers, in the Pas-de-Calais, just north of Etaples. His tragic death was recorded in the Battery's war diary :

Dec 9th - Received information that 77349 Bmdr Robinson P. died in No 11 General Hospital at 6-5 a.m. 5/12/16 of Nephritis (acute)
He was buried in the nearby Etaples Military Cemetery. This cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemetery in France, contains 10,771 Commonwealth burials of the Great War. It also contains 119 burials from the Second World War and 662 Non Commonwealth burials, mainly German.

Acting Bombardier Robinson was posthumously awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal. His financial effects of 10 3s 1d were paid on 29 March 1917 to his father, who also received his War Gratuity of 3 on 28 August 19198.By this time, the family had moved to 74 Imperial Road, Beeston where William and Elizabeth lived out their lives9.

1The photograph of the Etaples Military Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth date of 23 July 1884 was recorded in the Register when he was Baptised at Beeston Parish Church on 21 September 1884. The birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q3/1884 (Ref 7b 182)
3Beeston, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 58. Percival's siblings were Lilian (1879-1954), May (b. 1887) and William Claude (1889-1972).
4Beeston, Nottingham, 1911 Census, Piece 20428 RD429 SD3 ED3 Schedule 216
5The amount of the War Gratuity that was awarded and paid to his father after the war indicates that he had served for less than 12 months at the time he was killed. His place of enlistment is recorded as "Beeston" in his entry in "Soldiers Died in the Great War".
6This description of the role of the Royal Garrison Artillery is based on that on The Long, Long Trail website at www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-royal-artillery-in-the-first-world-war/
7Details of the Battery's arrival in France and action there are based on its war diary (National Archives : Catalogue reference: WO 95/229/6).
8Details from Percival's Medal Register entries and the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.
9Elizabeth died on 10 September 1933, probably at home. William died on 28 May 1941 at his daughter's home in Solihull, Warwickshire. They are buried together in Beeston Cemetery.

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