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  • Christina Drummond

Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Robert Bowness Gibson, 2nd Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment

Remembering the fallen: on this day in 1916, Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Robert Bowness Gibson, 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, was killed in action at Trones Wood on the Somme. He had attended Oxford University before enlisting at the outbreak of the war in the Territorial 28th London's (the "Artists Rifles") ; he was discharged to Commission a few weeks later, into the 3rd South Staffordshires at the age of nineteen, and in November 1914 was posted to the Bedfordshire Regiment, arriving in France in May, 1915. He was twice mentioned in dispatches, and twice recommended for the Military Cross – as an officer he was referred to as “brave and much loved," and is remembered and praised for his gallantry and courage. Three men from his platoon risked their lives to retrieve his body for burial - most of his men had been killed by machine gun fire upon entering the wood, and he himself had been shot through the head, dying instantly. In a letter to his parents, Lieutenant Colonel H.S. Poynty says: “I can't tell you how much he was loved by his brother officers and men. He was a most splendid officer and quite the best subaltern I had. A nicer and braver fellow never lived.” From a fellow officer, Captain Beal: “Nothing I can say can in any way express the deep sorrow of not only myself, but of every officer and man in this Regt. I can safely say that your son's death in action has been felt more keenly than any other of the many this Regt has suffered. Many and many a time have we shared the same blanket and coat in trying to keep each other warm. If anything can help you bear your great loss, I am sure it will be the knowledge that his death was instantaneous and that he died at the head of his men, with whom he was so well liked.” Other officers referred to him being “as brave as a lion,” “cheerful while muddy in the trenches,” and in a note to his mother, the Chaplain wrote: I valued his unselfishness and wonderful cheerfulness, and I miss him sorely.” Robert, from Hampstead, was 21 years old.

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