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Major General William Robb (1888–1961) CBE, DSO, MC was a senior British Army officer, who served in both World Wars.

William Robb
Birth nameWilliam Robb
Born23 November 1888
Hexham, Northumberland, England
Died27 March 1961
Matfen, Northumberland, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service1907–1946
RankMajor General
Service number14247
UnitNorthumberland Fusiliers
Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
North Staffordshire Regiment
Commands held2nd Bn North Staffordshire Regiment
9th Infantry Brigade
Malta Garrison
Battles/wars1915-18 The Great War
BEF 1940 France
Malta 1943-1945
AwardsCommander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross

Family backgroundEdit

William Robb was born in Hexham Northumberland on 23 November 1888[1]. The Robb family owned a successful department store business in Hexham[2]. He was educated in Edinburgh at George Watson's College as a boarding scholar[3].

He was one of five children[4][5] and all the male siblings would served in the forces. One of his younger brothers - Sir James Milne Robb would rise to the rank of Air Vice Marshal in the RAF; all three of the Robb brothers (including William) would see service in World War 1 as officers in the Northumberland Fusiliers[6]; although one would go on to join the RAF.

William Robb married Nancy Chrystal Dodds in Hexham, Northumberland in 1916[7]. They had one son William Walter Milroy Robb, who was born in 1919[8].

After a lengthy absence from Northumberland during his career in the British Army Robb returned to live in the county, in the village of Corbridge; although he died on 27 March 1961 in Matfen, Northumberland[9].

Military careerEdit

Robb was commissioned into a militia battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers on 8 January 1907; but he later transferred to the 4th Battalion the Northumberland Fusiliers (a Territorial Force unit) as a second lieutenant on 1 April 1908[10]. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1910. He was promoted to captain on 5 December 1912[11]; serving with the battalion's D Company based at Prudhoe[12].

In 1914 Robb along with his battalion was mobilised for war and is recorded as entering the theatre of operations (i.e. France) in April 1915. He was awarded the Military Cross whilst serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers[13]. Whilst on the Western Front with his unit Captain Robb was recorded as an active and popular member of the 4th Battalion the Northumberland Fusiliers[14]. He was even given temporary lieutenant colonel rank and commanded the battalion in the Battle of St Quentin on 21 March 1918; during this particularly fierce battle he was wounded and evacuated[15].

After the war he decided to 'soldier on' and accepted a regular commission in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI)[16]. By 5 June 1920 Robb was a captain in the 2nd Battalion the KOYLI[17]. The battalion would see service in India from April 1922[18][19] and Robb served with his family until 1925 when they returned on a troopship to England[20]. Robb remained in India serving as a staff officer at the headquarters of Kohat District in 1926[21].

An Army List of 1938 recorded that Robb was commanding the 2nd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment and that he had been in post since 12 April 1936, having been promoted to lieutenant colonel on 1 July 1933[22].

The August 1939 British Army List recorded Robb as promoted to colonel on 1 July 1936 and later in 1939 recorded as a temporary brigadier commanding an infantry brigade[23]. In 1940 he was part of the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force commanding the 9th Infantry Brigade (part of 3rd Infantry Division)[24][25]. In recognition of his performance during the retreat to Dunkirk and the evacuation of his brigade Colonel (Temporary Brigadier) William Robb was awarded the DSO.[26].

After Dunkirk Robb was not given command of a manoeuvre formation and from 19 May 1941 to August 1943 he was put in charge of part of the defence of South Wales (specifically the Severn Sub-area)[27] and he clearly did well at this post, as Colonel William Robb DSO MC (late of the North Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's)) was made CBE in 1943[28].

On 23 August 1943 Colonel (temporary Brigadier) William Robb was granted the acting rank of major general[29]. After the promotion he was posted to Malta as General Officer Commanding the army garrison on the islands, remaining in post until 1945[30]. A popular military beach club in the Pembroke Army Garrison area was named after him - the Robb Lido (which was redeveloped as a commercial hotel complex overlooking St George's Bay).

On 23 November 1946 Colonel (Honorary Major General) Robb reached the age limit of liability to recall, and ceased to be held on the Reserve of Officers and was retired from the army; although he did take up the honorary post of regimental colonel of the KOYLI[31]. He relinquished his post as regimental colonel of the KOYLI on 1 August 1950[32], a post he had held for three years[33].

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
  2. ^ 1891 England Census
  3. ^ 1901 Scotland Census
  4. ^ 1891 England Census
  5. ^ 1901 England Census
  6. ^ "R - 4th Northumberland Fusiliers". 4th Northumberland Fusiliers. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  7. ^ England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005
  8. ^ England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1916-2007
  9. ^ England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995
  10. ^ "7228 The London Gazette, 6 October 1908" (PDF). Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Hart's annual army list, special reserve list, and territorial force list 1915". EG Hart. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  12. ^ "'D' (Prudhoe) Company - 4th Northumberland Fusiliers". 4th Northumberland Fusiliers. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  13. ^ British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
  14. ^ Tilley, Brian (31 January 2016). "Tynedale in the Great War". Pen and Sword. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Battle of St Quentin - 4th Northumberland Fusiliers". 4th Northumberland Fusiliers. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  16. ^ British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
  17. ^ British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
  18. ^ "Indian Army List For Oct -1925". 1925. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  19. ^ "Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry". Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  20. ^ UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960
  21. ^ "Indian Army List For Jan -1927". 1927. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  22. ^ "Army lists, Monthly army lists, January 1938". Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  23. ^ "The Monthly Army List Aug 1939" (PDF). Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  24. ^ Murland, Jerry (30 November 2016). "Battle for the Escaut 1940: The France and Flanders Campaign". Pen and Sword. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  25. ^ Murland, Jerry (31 March 2016). "Retreat and Rearguard - Dunkirk 1940: The Evacuation of the BEF to the Channel Ports". Pen and Sword. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  26. ^ "Supplement to the London Gazette, 11 JULY 1940" (PDF). Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  27. ^ "Western Command (History & Personnel) South Wales District" (PDF). Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  28. ^ "The London Gazette 1943" (PDF). Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  29. ^ "Supplement to the London Gazette, 17 Sep 1943" (PDF). Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  30. ^ "Army Commands, List of GOCs Malta, Page 148" (PDF). Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  31. ^ "Supplement to the London Gazette, 6 December 1946" (PDF). Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  32. ^ "Supplement to the London Gazette, 18 August 1950" (PDF). Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  33. ^ "British Light Infantry Regiments Colonels". Retrieved 16 October 2018.