Wheathampstead Heritage: Virtual Museum Exhibit

George Upton Robins
Upton Robins, George
20th Century
Captain George Upton Robins, hero of Hill 60

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Captain George Upton Robins (1878-1915)

Third Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment (attached to the Duke of Wellington's Regiment),
author of Lays of the Hertfordshire Hunt. Educated at Haileybury, then Magdalen Oxford.

George Upton Robins was in China when the First World War broke out. He hurried back to England and re-joined his old regiment at Hull. Gazetted Captain in 3rd Battalion in February 1915. Ordered to the front April 22nd. On arrival in France he received orders to join 2nd Battalion which had lost heavily on Hill 60 on April 18th.

Hill 60 was of vital importance as an observation and artillery post on the Messines Ridge. Whoever controlled it had a perfect view of what was going on in Ypres. Nicknamed “Hell with the lid off”, it got its name by being 60 metres above sea level. It was not a natural feature but simply a large heap of soil and rubble from the nearby railway cutting on the hill between Ypres and Comines, an important rail junction. The Germans had captured it in December 1914, but the British needed to retake it. They drove three galleries (one 1,380 feet long) into the hillside and exploded six mines on the evening of 17 April, the middle of the hill was blasted upwards and equipment and bodies were flung in all directions. Heavy bombardment followed and finally the 13th Infantry Brigade forward, occupied the summit and dug in. For 48 hours, the Germans poured a torrent of shells on the British soldiers trying to dig in, then sent in their infantry by which time about 5,000 bodies were lying on the hill. On May 5th he was in command of his company on Hill 60 when the fatal gas attack took place. The entire company were wiped out; only he and his orderly managed to crawl down the hill at the end of the attack to make a report. The Hill fell to the Germans again and stayed in their hands for the next 2 years.

Captain Robins' last words, spoken slowly and in a gasping voice to the officer commanding the regiment were: "They have gassed the 'Duke's'. I believe I was the last man to leave the hill. The men up there are all dead. They were splendid. I thought I ought to come and report." He died in the field ambulance the same night, never having regained consciousness. His sister was told that had he not gone back to check on his men he might have survived, as he had been gassed then, but not so badly. Mrs Claire Hoskyns Abrahall published his poems as a memorial to her brother.

George Upton Robins is buried in He is buried in the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground, (Transport Farm), Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The George Upton Robins buried in St Helen's Churchyard is his father.

Lord Cavan in his Preface to 'The Lays of the Hertfordshire Hunt' says:" He was the last to leave Hill 60. Only those members of the Hunt who have served and suffered in this war will perhaps fully understand what that short sentence means. To me it means absolute self-sacrifice, splendid courage, and an undying example. And history will not forget those who fought that great fight on May 5th, 1915."


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For further reading on the family of Upton Robins in Wheathampstead see this reference in Hertfordshire Genaeology or here - Early Families of Wheathampstead. Cpt George Upton Robins is also remembered by his old school Haileybury in their Role of Honour.

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Date Created: 23/02/2013 16:07:30, by: David   Date last edited: 23/02/2013 17:13:12, by: David

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