George Horace Townsend Robey was born on July 14th, 1884 in Manly, New South Wales to Horace Townsend and Violet Florence Robey [nee Townsend]. He was one of five children they would have, and he was the second oldest. He was baptized on August 16th, 1884 in Sydney. In the pre-war period, he was an Engineer and a prominent member of both the Lifesaving Club and Sailing Club in Manly.
On August 18th, 1914 he enlisted into the A.I.F at Maryborough, Queensland, and he states he served 2 years in "No.1 Electrical Co. A.E". He was immediately allotted the service number '530' and a spot in 'E' Company, 9th Battalion which was then forming at Enoggera Barracks, Queensland. He was trained for a month before he embarked with his Battalion out of Brisbane on September 24th, 1914.
Photo taken just prior to embarkation; Published in The Queenslander
Robey in Egypt, February 14th, 1915.
He trained in Egypt for a few months, no doubt seeing the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids of Giza whilst there. He seems to have been having quite the time there and had no disciplinary problems whilst there. He was assigned to 'C' Company in January 1915, and before long, he would see action on Gallipoli. As he was apart of the 3rd Brigade, he would've been one of the many men in the covering force, scrambling up hills on the Sari Bair Ridge on the Gallipoli Peninsula. At 4 AM on April 25th, Robey and his brigade were in boats, heading towards Gallipoli. Unbeknownst to the men at the time, they were heading towards the region of Ari Burnu, a mile north of the intended landing zone. He talked about the landing in a letter and other moments..
'The Turks opened a murderous fire on us. We were 200 yards from the beach, when the boats began to fill up because of the holes made by the bullets. Naturally they hit the bottom a long way from shore, and we had to tumble out up to our necks. We were being bowled over all the time. The noise and confusion were indescribable. Our orders were, 'Not a shot is to be fired.' When about 60 of us got together we charged up a hill. Sir Ian Hamilton, referring to it afterwards, said: "The famous historical charge at Balaclava cannot be compared with it. On that occasion they charged down a hill and were beaten. Here you charged up a hill and won." But our poor battalion is smashed to pieces.'
'It is 10 days since we landed, and it seems 10 years. The navy is still bombarding. The row is simply deafening, as the shells are bursting over our heads all the time. I was sent to the ship for a couple of days spell, and I can tell you it did not come before its time. After all the narrow escapes and experiences I have been through I feel quite dazed.'
'We only have seven officers left, and most of our N.C.O.'s are gone. I was set to work building a sandbag shelter for the wounded. They were actually being shot again and again while lying in the stretchers. There was nowhere to put them out of the range of the fire.'
'How I escaped being riddled with bullets I will never be able to understand. They went through my clothes, smashed my rifle, tore my haversack to pieces and only this morning I found a case of cartridges in my bandolier just over my heart smashed up'
'Of course I got some small cuts. One bullet gave me a nasty cut in the leg, and a piece of shrapnel struck my arm, but none of the wounds are serious. During the last 10 days I have seen men dropping all around me, and there has been nothing but an endless string of stretchers from the firing line to the beach.'
During the landing, he performed an act which would lead to his recommendation for the D.C.M. There are two recommendations existing, they read..
"On April 25th during operations near KABA[sic] TEPE:-"For distinguished courage and initiative in returning from the firing line under heavy fire, collecting reinforcements and assisting in leading a successful bayonet charge to the top of the hill, which was eventually held against great odds"
"[On April 25th,]Robey swam back to one of the boats under heavy fire and carried into safety a wounded comrade who was left in the boat, otherwise empty"
The second recommendation is the D.C.M citation, the first one is not. His D.C.M appeared on the London Gazette on June 3rd, 1915 on page 5332 at position 26 and the M.I.D appeared on August 5th, 1915 on page 7668 at position 51.
Robey was appointed Lance Corporal on April 26th and took part in the successful raid on Twin Trenches on May 28th led by Second Lieutenant Wilder-Neligan, the party would lose no one during this action.. he went to hospital on June 20th with Gastro-Enteric. He went to 1st Australian General Hospital on June 24th, and went to Mustapha Camp at Alexandria on July 17th. He stayed there for a couple of months, before embarking on September 27th and he rejoined the Battalion on October 4th. The following day, he was promoted to Lance Corporal, and went sick again on December 8th with abdominal pains. He went to the 2nd Field Ambulance at Sarpi Camp, located on Lemnos. He then rejoined the Battalion on December 19th, and on the day before Christmas, he went back into hospital. On Christmas Day, he was admitted to the 1st Field Ambulance at Sarpi with Diarrhoea, then the 3rd Australian General Hospital. He was then admitted with Dysentery on January 6th, 1916 and was transferred to Alexandria on January 11th. He went to Ras-el-Tin Camp on January 13th with 'Enteric'. He was discharged to duty at Ras-el-Tin on February 4th.
Robey in 1915-16?
After two month and a bit, he was transferred to the 3rd Echelon, Australian Record Section on April 26th, 1916 and reverted to Private on the same day at his own request on arrival to the unit, but was promoted later that day to Corporal. On July 5th, he went to hospital sick, and was discharged to duty, arriving back on July 10th. he appointed Sergeant on September 1st. He proceeded overseas on September 22nd, to join the B.E.F Records, and arrived in Marseilles on the 28th. He went on leave on October 22nd to November 3rd. He then decided to take on a combat role again, transferring back to the 9th Battalion on April 5th, 1917, taken onto strength the same day. He was detached for duty as a guard on July 30th, then rejoined the battalion on August 9th.
NCO's of the 9th Battalion, Robey is front row, first on left
He then went back to ANZAC Section, 3rd Echelon, G.H.Q on September 15th, taken onto strength on September 17th. He went on leave again on November 6th to the 22nd. His time in 1918 was very uneventful. He disembarked at Southampton on September 29th, 1918. He embarked on December 9th, 1918 on Special 1914 Leave as part of the 9th Battalion, and arrived back in Australia on January 22nd, 1919 at 3rd M.D. He was discharged on March 24th, 1919 at 2nd M.D after 4 and a half years in the service with no disciplinary issues. It was also listed that he applied for the Australian Flying Corps and worked as a Dispatch Rider in France. This was not the end of his story..
Robey married on December 8th, 1920 to Florence Ruby Clark, they had a son, Keith Townsend Robey on September 28th, 1921. In the post-war period, George was a Citizens Military Forces soldier and he was one of the men who went to assist the opening of Parliament House in 1927. When he arrived back, he gave his son a wooden bi-plane, but little did he know what this would do. His son developed a love for aviation, and after 6 years he decided that he wanted to become a pilot but there was no sort of air-minded scout group. His father realized this, and with the help of some veterans and RSL mates, they formed the Air Mindedness Development League on September 7th, 1933, but it was renamed in March 1934 to the Australian Air League to which it is referred to today. Manly Squadron was formed in October 1934 and in a short time, more were being formed. Keith was the first cadet in the Air League. Just to make it clear, the Air League was a not for profit youth group, and not the official Air Force Cadets.
The first parade was at the Clubroom on Manly Oval on January 17th, 1935 with 30 cadets present and two instructors, Lingham and Pittendrigh. After a month, there were 50 cadets.
Manly Squadron in February 1935.
As the Air League grew, more Squadrons were formed in New South Wales, and one was formed in early 1939 in Victoria. They formed a Female Section in 1944. The Air League had a special Squadron which role was to train members of the AAL with RAAF Instructors and made them pass theory and medical tests and at the age of 18, they would be thrown into a cockpit in the RAAF. Believed to be a Victorian Squadron, it was disbanded after a few years. George Robey never saw the full success of the Air League, as he died on February 29th, 1940 due to an illness. By time of his death, there was about 12000 members. Many members of the Air League members went on Active Service in the Second World War, some died, some were decorated. Keith was one of them, a Flight Lieutenant in the Pacific from 1942-46. The Air League is still flourishing today, with many members still signing on.
The Victorian RAAF Second World War Squadron
George Robey was entitled to this medal set below.
Distinguished Conduct Medal
1914-15 Star British War Medal Victory Medal [with MiD]
Edited by tankengine888