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Robb, A.K., Major, MiD, 1914

The 'Sphere' Magazine

Bond of Sacrifice Page 333

Bond of Sacrifice Roll of Honour entry for D.L.I.

Photo : Jims Collection

Major Alexander Kirkland Robb

OTC History

ROH entry in the OTC Memorial Book

In Vendresse British Cemetery is the Commonwealth War Grave of Major Alexander Kirkland Robb, serving with the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, who died 20/09/1914.

Alexander Kirkland Robb [Tubby], was born in Poona on the 26th August 1872, was the son of the late Lt. Col. John Robb, M.D. (Indian Medical Service), and Jean Kirkland Robb; husband of Ethel Violet Robb, of 33, Southborough Rd., Bickley, Kent.

He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School a student in the Arts. 1889-91, and then Aberdeen University.

He then received his military training at Military College, Sandhurst. From there he passed out winning the Anson Memorial sword of honour in January 1893. He was keen on games especially Rugby Football, where he was a fine back and a very safe and plucky tackler.

In 1897-8 he was selected for service, to be attached to the 105th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, where he was the special correspondent to, 'The Bugle' [Durham Light Infantry regimental magazine], which he had previously been Editor.

Gazetted the same year to the 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry, as a 2nd Lieutenant on the 26th May, 1893, he became Lieutenant on the 21st May 1896; Captain, 19th February 1900; and Major on the 23rd August 1913. He came to the 2nd Battalion in the old Troopship Malaber on her last and recorded voyage to India, which took something like 8 weeks, which also broke down, and had to be repaired at Malta.

Alexander saw active service on the N.W. Frontier with the King's Own Yorkshire L.I. in the Tirah campaigns in 1897 and 1898. At the action of Shin Kamar, he behaved with conspicuous gallantry, and was mentioned in despatches.

He distinguished himself in various engagements, was mentioned in dispatches, and received the Tirah medal with two clasps. On one occasion he volunteered with 1 NCO and a private to keep the enemy off a peak on the flank, which had it been captured, would have exposed the British Force to a heavy flanking fire. Major Robb fought with his revolver only, using all of his cartridges. To the surprise of all, he and his comrades returned safely when the order was given to retire.

Colonel Seppings, Commanding the Yorkshire Light Infantry, wrote to Major Robb's own Commanding Officer a most appreciative report of his conduct in this campaign: and Major Robb's Commanding Officer, writing to the Brigadier-General, said "The Yorks Light Infantry are speaking in the Highest terms of young Robb at the fight in the Shin Kamur."

In 1901, he was employed in Burma, where he was attached to the Burma Intelligence Branch in connection with the Chinese Boundary Commission for reconnaissance duty during the cold season of 1899/1900. Due to his skills in military sketching and being a clever draughtsman.

He was also adjutant to the Rangoon Volunteer Corps from 1902 to 1907.

In 1907 he re-joined his regiment at Fermoy, then to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In September 1912, he was appointed Adjutant at the Durham University Officer's Training Corps. The University recognised his services by granting him the honorary degree of M.A. in June 1912. At Ilkley, in 1913, he was appointed Brigade Major to the combined Officers’ Training Corps Brigade, and at Stobs this year he was Adjutant of No. 2 Battalion, to which the Durham University contingent was allotted.

Alexander re-joined his regiment in Ireland and before August 1914 was acting as lecturer in military subjects at Durham University, and Adjutant to the O.T.C. there.

He re-joined his regiment on the 5th August 1914 .

The regiment spent about 20 days at Cambridge, before being embarked at Southampton.

Major Robb played Rugby Football and Hockey for his regiment.

He married in 1901 Ethel Violet (Queenie), daughter of the late Edward Rule, Comptroller Indian Treasuries, in the Indian Civil Service. He had two daughters Sheila Kirkland born in 1905 and Betty Kirkland, born in 1907.

Major Robb's battalion was sent to the Front three weeks after the outbreak of war, and it was in their first engagement, at the Battle of the Aisne, on the 20th September 1914, that he fell.

Though severely wounded in a bayonet charge, he continued to lead his men up to about thirty yards from the enemy trenches. The story of how he was brought in by a private [Private Warwick Service Number 8757] of his battalion does honour to his rescuer; and scarcely less to him, showing as it does the devotion which he inspired.

"*Lying wounded, he was picked up under fire and carried into the British trenches by two devoted soldiers of his Company, both of whom were shot just as they reached safety, but one at least is now convalescent and in the country".

Major Robb died in a hospital at Troyon the same night. He was an officer whom his regiment had cause to love and honour, a brave leader, and a courteous and considerate friend.

In John Sheen's book the Steel of the DLI page 42, there are two different versions of events, and in one of the events does not even mention Pte Warwick!

"Warwick had to dash over a hill to within 30 yards of the German Trenches." He crawled along and succeeded in getting him [Robb] back, to use his own words, "right under the very noses of the Germans. It was hard job to get him in, and in my effort I was shot in the back and fell"

[Private Warwick resided at Grasmere Road in Darlington and was awarded the D.C.M.; he had been recommended the Victoria Cross. He also rescued at least 2 other men, Pte Howson 7544 and Pte Maughan from the same Battalion].

Source: Cross of Sacrifice

* The Durham University Journal page 257, June 1915. With Thanks to Durham University Archives Service.

Source: Aberdeen Roll of Honour Page 1

OTC History

Bond of Sacrifice

Source: The Northerner Vol. XV, no. 1, December 1914, page 4.

Additional research: James Pasby

Alexander Kirkland Rob is remembered in Jesmond on J1.06 and in Newcastle on NUT063


Durham University Roll of Honour
Durham University Roll of Honour Special Collections
The CWGC entry for Major Robb

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk