Robson Foster 2/Lt 182390

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Personnel Entry

Auction illustration from Dix Noonan Webb - September 2017.
Auction illustration from Dix Noonan Webb - September 2017.

Name Robson Foster
Army number 182390
Rank 2/Lt
Decorations M.C. Gazetted 21/10/1943 for action in Sicily.
Date of birth 5/5/1920 - South Shields (to be confirmed).
Age 0
Unit The Durham Light Infantry - Emergency Commission as 2/Lt 12/4/1941. Posted No 4 ITC Brancepeth, 1941. Posted 10th Bn DLI 6/3/1942. Transferred to the Army Air Corps 2/8/1942 in the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Posted to the Glider Pilot Regiment. Unemployed list 1946 as Honorary Captain.
Company/Battery 10th Bn B Coy
Platoon or other sub-unit
Task or role Platoon Commander. Glider Pilot. Senior Glider Pilot.
Joined Brigade 06-Mar-42.
Promotions W/S Lt 1/10/1942, T/Captain 29/3/1944.
Wounded Yes - at Arnhem - in both legs (see text below).
Prisoner of War Yes - September 1944. Camp - Stalag 11B and Oflag IX/AH. PoW Number details not yet available.
Died/Killed in action Death registered November 1994, Wakefield. Died 2/11/1994 aged 74. Probate granted by Leeds Registry 25/1/1995.
Home address Son of Arnold Henry Robson (1890 - 1959) and Florence M Watson (1893 - ?) Married Joan S Mainwaring at Bucklow, Cheshire in 1944. Lived at Altrincham.
Source table 10DLI

Fortuitously, on running a general Internet search for information on Lt Foster Robson, the sale of his medals were traced, and this was accompanied by a detailed account of his operational service and the citation for his Military Cross. The Auctioneer's (DNW) text supporting the sale is set out below, with a sincere acknowledgment to their Website.

An outstanding and well documented ‘Sicily Landings’ Immediate M.C. group of six awarded to Captain F. Robson, Glider Pilot Regiment, Army Air Corps, who not only successfully landed his glider 250 yards short of the beach, 9 July 1943, but also having swum ashore joined the men of the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, and took part in ‘a crawl through 20’ of barbed wire covered by a pill box... marched 10 miles collecting 3 men of the ATk detachment and 6 of E Coy, and captured 2 pillboxes, 21 prisoners, 3 MGs and 1 ATk gun and reached Ponte Grande in the evening.’ Robson subsequently piloted a Horsa as part of Operation Market, 16/17 September 1944, and was wounded in both legs and taken prisoner of war at Arnhem three days later. He took part in the ‘Long March’ across Germany in 1945.

Military Cross, G.VI.R., unnamed as issued, reverse officially dated ‘1943’; 1939-45 Star; Italy Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, mounted court-style for display by Spink & Son, St. James, nearly extremely fine (6) £8000-10000

Provenance: DNW, March 2002.

M.C. London Gazette 21 October 1943, the recommendation states:

‘Sicily 9.7.43. This officer has shown outstanding gallantry and leadership in his first glider-borne operation. He landed his glider safely in the sea. He then helped those who were unable to swim to reach the shore. He showed the utmost coolness and leadership for 15 hours during which time he was an example to all. Although he was unarmed, he took two grenades and took part in the capture of a pill box in which 20 Italians were captured.’

Foster Robson was educated at Altrincham Grammar School, ‘before joining up in June, 1940, was employed by the United Kingdom Gas Corporation as a pupil-engineer. His father is secretary and accountant to Altrincham Gas Company.’ (newspaper cutting refers)

Robson was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Durham Light Infantry, in April 1941. He transferred to the Glider Pilot Regiment, Army Air Corps, and carried out pilot training at No. 21 E.F.T.S., R.A.F. Booker from August 1942. Having advanced to Lieutenant in the same year, he progressed from training in Tiger Moths and Magisters, to the Hotspur Glider at No. 2 Glider Training School. Robson was posted to the Heavy Glider Conversion Unit in March 1943, where he converted to the Horsa.

After a brief posting to 4 Squadron, 1st Battalion, Glider Pilot Regiment, Robson was posted for overseas operational flying to 2 Squadron, 1st Battalion at the end of May 1943. Having arrived in North Africa, he served as part of the 1st Airborne Division, Army Air Corps, as part of Operation Ladbroke, 9 July 1943. The latter being the glider landing by British airborne troops near Syracuse, Sicily, as part of Operation Husky - the Allied invasion of Sicily. Robson piloted a Waco Hadrian in what was to be his first glider-borne operation, ‘Sousse “A” Sicily “Op 1. (Air Landing Brigade)’ (Log Book refers).

Although a number of the 136 Wacos and 8 Horsas were released too early by the towing craft and crashed into the sea, Robson was amongst those that successfully landed. He then went on to take an active role in operations as the War Diary of the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment records:

‘Bn HQ was carried in 4 Waco gliders, 3 of which landed in the sea. The first glider containing Lieut-Col McCardie, Capt Connellan and Lt Roberts crashed in the sea 2 miles offshore; the party swam ashore losing 2 men drowned and the C.O. and Major Murray, the senior glider pilot after running the gauntlet of enemy patrols and fire reached Ponte Grande which was then held by us. The remainder were picked up by naval craft and taken to Suez... The second glider carrying the 2nd i/c - Major Brennan, the R.M.O. - Capt Miller and Lt Austin, crashed in the sea 250 yds offshore; Lt Austin was killed by MG fire while on the glider. They swam ashore and Maj Brennan, Capt Miller, the 2 glider Pilots, Lts Impey and Robson and 2 men moved off to join the Bn. This involved a crawl through 20’ of barbed wire covered by a pill box; clear then of the beach defences, they marched 10 miles collecting 3 men of the ATk detachment and 6 of E Coy, and captured 2 pillboxes, 21 prisoners, 3 MGs and 1 ATk gun and reached Ponte Grande in the evening. Lt Impey accidentally shot himself with an enemy rifle and subsequently died. The 3rd glider carrying S Coy Comd Maj Hargroves and Capt The Rev A. A. Buchanan landed on Cape Murro di Porco, surrounded by enemy MG posts and were captured... They rejoined the Bn on 11 July. The 4th glider crashed in the sea 4 miles out. Lt. Warneford and 2 O.R.s were drowned. Lieut. Ashburnham, the R.S.M. and remainder of the party were picked up by naval craft and taken to Malta.’

Robson made a return to operational flying on 22 July 1943, and continued to serve at Sousse, Tunisia, throughout August. He returned to the UK, and was posted to R.A.F. Shrewton in January 1944. Robson advanced to Temporary Captain in March 1944, and served at R.A.F. Brize Norton before being posted to 19 Flight, F Squadron, Glider Pilot Regiment, at R.A.F. Broadwell. He transferred to 16 Flight in April 1944, and was appointed to the command of the Flight prior to it’s participation in Operation Market (the airborne element of the Operation Market Garden).

On the night of 16/17 September 1944, Captain Robson piloted Horsa Glider No. 589 as part of the airborne landing at Arnhem. On 20 September he was wounded in both legs and taken prisoner, his Log Book records ‘17 Sept 1944 Op. Market. Arnhem. [and later annotated] Sept 20 (Wounded L & R Legs & Taken Prisoner).’

A newspaper cutting included in the lot offers the following on Robson:

‘As a glider pilot of the 1st Airborne Division, he was wounded at Arnhem on September 20th, 1944, where he was picked up by the Germans and taken to Gronau Hospital, where he stayed for about 10 days, during which time he was operated upon. In an undermined condition, he was removed by cattle truck to Stalag 11B, where he had to wait for two days before being taken to Oflag IX/AH.

“The distance between these two camps,” Captain Robson said, “was approximately 100 miles, and, due to the R.A.F.’s handiwork, the painful journey lasted 31 hours. There were 10 in my party, all of whom were in a grim state - we were just barely able to crawl along. We were placed in the camp hospital, where we stayed until well enough to hobble about. In this camp, there were more than 2,000 British prisoners, some of whom were the oldest inhabitants of any German prison camp, having been captured at Dunkirk in 1940...”

In the teeth of the Western onslaught, Captain Robson was hastily removed from his camp and marched 20 miles a night for three consecutive nights, penetrating further into the heart of Germany. Most of the men forced to march were well over 45 years of age, and many dropped by the wayside, unable to go any further in their weakened state.