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 12046 Driver Charles Robson Royal Engineers. Rorkes Drift Defender 22nd/23rd Jan 1879

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Saul David 1879

Posts : 526
Join date : 2009-02-28

PostSubject: 12046 Driver Charles Robson Royal Engineers. Rorkes Drift Defender 22nd/23rd Jan 1879   Sat Mar 07, 2009 8:59 pm

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12046 Driver Robson, Charles
Royal Engineers
Lieutenant Chard's VC batman at Rorke's Drift
Charles John Robson was born in 1854 in the parish of St George, Whitechapel. There was some confusion about his christian name, which was given as Edward. This error stems from a mistake in the official roll of the defenders at Rorke's Drift (1879).

His father, George Robson, was a coachman and his mother, Ann, a domestic servant.

He was a man of light build, weighing only nine and a half stones.

At almost nineteen years of age, Robson enlisted into the Royal Engineers as a driver, having previously worked with his father as a groom. He served at Aldershot, and at Chatham in 1876 and 1881. On 2nd December 1878, aged 24, he embarked for South Africa.

Driver Charles John Robson
His Soldier's Papers describe him as:

Height: 5' 5"
Eyes: Grey
Hair: Brown
Complexion: Fresh
He was with the 5th Field Company RE and served with Lieutenant Chard, acting as his batman during the defence of Rorke's Drift(Wednesday 22nd - Thursday 23rd January 1879). He was Chard's batman throughout the campaign and was present at the Battle of Ulundi (Friday 4th July 1879).

During the defence of Rorke's Drift he assisted B Company, 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot, commanded by Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, with the constructing of the defences made up of mealie bags, and took his place in front of the storehouse where the perimeter met a stronger built kraal. As the battle developed Chard noted where Robson was placed. His observations are contained in his account of the defence, written for Queen Victoria:

'As darkness came on we were completely surrounded. The Zulus wrecking the camp of the Company 24th and my wagon which had been left outside, in spite of the efforts of my batman, Driver Robson (the only man of the Royal Engineers with us), who had directed his particular attention to keeping the Zulus off this wagon in which we were, as he described it, "Our things".'
Robson remained at Rorke's Drift for several weeks after the battle. In all his service abroad was 305 days, he returned to England on 4th October 1879 and was awarded the South Africa medal with 1879 clasp.

On his return to England he appears to have spent most of his service acting as driver-batman to various officers. Testimonials from the officers he worked for contain words of praise and describe him as a man of good character and "strictly honest".

In 1883, at the age of 29, he married Jane Elizabeth Farrand at Hale Church, Hale, Surrey. They had one child, a daughter Annie Lilian born in 1891.

Robson was discharged from the army on 30th April 1894 when almost forty years old, having been on the Army Reserve throughout most of the 1880s.

He died in 1933, his occupation listed as Army Pensioner and General Labourer. The cause of death was recorded as cerebral embolism (blood clot on the brain). He was buried in a large common grave at Woolwich Cemetery.

From :Royal Engineers museum
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PostSubject: Reception at Home: Chard and Robson   Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:50 pm

Reception at Home: Chard and Robson
Major Chard and Driver Robson arrived at Portsmouth aboard a chartered ship the SS Egypt, where a large gathering of generals, including the Commander in Chief His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, were waiting to greet them. Amongst other passengers were several other Rorke's Drift defenders, including Surgeon Major James Reynolds VC and Gunner Arthur Howard (a former patient at the makeshift hospital).

Once home Major Chard VC commenced an unofficial tour of the country, being requested to leave a contact address with the adjutant general so that an audience with Queen Victoria could be arranged. First stop was the home of his sister in Moredon, Somerset. News of the visit travelled fast and a huge crowd of over 4,000 had gathered at Taunton railway station to greet Chard's train. Chard and his family were then taken by carriage through the streets of Taunton, to the strains of 'Hail the Conquering Hero Comes' and on to the village of North Curry with its streets decorated with banners. A large party was also held.

Other welcoming receptions continued - Plymouth, London and Chatham. At Chatham, Chard was "entertained" by his fellow officers at Brompton Barracks. Several Zulu warriors were amongst the guests.

On 10th October, Chard and Robson went to Balmoral and an audience with Queen Victoria and at the beginning of November, in Somerset, Robson parted company from Chard. The year 1879 drew to a close, ushering in a more routine way of life. Chard was posted and went on to further promotion and Robson to normal army service holding a reference from Chard:

'Moredon, 17th November 1879

Driver Charles Robson, Royal Engineers, served with me in the 5th Coy, RE as my batman, for some months before and during the whole of the Zulu campaign. His conduct has been very good and he has given me great satisfaction - he was the only Royal Engineer with me at Rorke's Drift on the 22nd January, where he did good service. He was also present at the action of Ulundi. I sincerely hope he may get on and do well.

John R M Chard, Capt and Bt Maj RE.'

Source: R.E Museum
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12046 Driver Charles Robson Royal Engineers. Rorkes Drift Defender 22nd/23rd Jan 1879
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