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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

'The Wicked Boy' by Kate Summerscale.


MikeyH
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Not a book on the Great War, but the conflict features in a sort of absolution.  In 1895 in London 13 year old Robert Coombes was found guilty of the murder of his mother.  He was deemed to be insane and committed to Broadmoor.   In 1912, he left the asylum and joined a Salvation Army colony at Hadleigh, from there he went to Australia in 1914.  He joined up with the 13th Battalion in September as a bandsman, being an accomplished cornet player.  They went out to Egypt, and later to Suvla Bay on the 25th April 1915.  He served as a stretcher bearer and was recommended for the Military Medal for his part in the landing, this was confirmed and Gazetted in October.  On the 12th December he left for Egypt on a hospital ship, having contracted hepititus and trench foot.  Upon recovery, he was promoted to corporal in a sanitary section which was part of the 4th Division.  Arriving in Flanders in June 1916, then in July to the Somme to the town of Albert.  The commanding officer of the 45th Battalion determined to form a Band.  Robert was transferred as bandmaster and promoted to Sergeant.  He returned to Sydney on Christmas Day 1918.  He ran a market garden for most of the remainder of his life, his medals survived a bush fire which destroyed his home.  Robert continued to play at Armistice and Anzac Day Parades.  He mentored a young man and was still fondly remembered by Harry, who Kate Summerscale manged to trace and interview at the age of 95.  Robert Alan Coombes died on the 7th May 1949. 

Mike.

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3 hours ago, MikeyH said:

Not a book on the Great War, but the conflict features in a sort of absolution.  In 1895 in London 13 year old Robert Coombes was found guilty of the murder of his mother.  He was deemed to be insane and committed to Broadmoor.   In 1912, he left the asylum and joined a Salvation Army colony at Hadleigh, from there he went to Australia in 1914.  He joined up with the 13th Battalion in September as a bandsman, being an accomplished cornet player.  They went out to Egypt, and later to Suvla Bay on the 25th April 1915.  He served as a stretcher bearer and was recommended for the Military Medal for his part in the landing, this was confirmed and Gazetted in October.  On the 12th December he left for Egypt on a hospital ship, having contracted hepititus and trench foot.  Upon recovery, he was promoted to corporal in a sanitary section which was part of the 4th Division.  Arriving in Flanders in June 1916, then in July to the Somme to the town of Albert.  The commanding officer of the 45th Battalion determined to form a Band.  Robert was transferred as bandmaster and promoted to Sergeant.  He returned to Sydney on Christmas Day 1918.  He ran a market garden for most of the remainder of his life, his medals survived a bush fire which destroyed his home.  Robert continued to play at Armistice and Anzac Day Parades.  He mentored a young man and was still fondly remembered by Harry, who Kate Summerscale manged to trace and interview at the age of 95.  Robert Alan Coombes died on the 7th May 1949. 

Mike.

Very interesting Mike, it’s not a case that I’d ever heard of before and it’s intriguing that it occurred not that many years after the infamous Ripper murders.  There’s quite a bit about Robert at the following link but I was disappointed at no mention of any meaningful motive for murdering his mother (pretty extreme!), other than a hint concerning violent chastisement upon his brother Nathaniel (who incidentally later also served in WW1, on HMAS Australia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Coombes_(murderer)

However, there might be more here: https://www.jack-the-ripper-tour.com/generalnews/robert-allen-coombes/

Edited by FROGSMILE
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4 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

Very interesting Mike, it’s not a case that I’d ever heard of before and it’s intriguing that it occurred not that many years after the infamous Ripper murders.  There’s quite a bit about Robert at the following link but I was disappointed at no mention of any meaningful motive for murdering his mother (pretty extreme!), other than a hint concerning violent chastisement upon his brother Nathaniel (who incidentally later also served in WW1, on HMAS Australia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Coombes_(murderer)

However, there might be more here: https://www.jack-the-ripper-tour.com/generalnews/robert-allen-coombes/

Nattie was 12 at the time of the murder, the author details his later life in the Merchant, Royal and Australian navies.

Mike.

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3 minutes ago, MikeyH said:

Nattie was 12 at the time of the murder, the author details his later life in the Merchant, Royal and Australian navies.

Mike.

Yes I understand he ended up as a chief stoker.

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