Lance Corporal Robert Birkin, 30231

  • Batt - 9
  • Unit - Devonshire Regiment
  • Section -
  • Date of Birth - 1897
  • Died - 26/10/1917
  • Age - 21

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Source: Michael Doyle Their Name Liveth For Evermore: The Great War Roll of Honour for Leicestershire and Rutland.
He was the son of Luke Birkin a publican, born 17th April 1871 in Loughborough, Leicestershire and his wife Mary Angelina Birkin (nee Cooke, married on the 3rd November 1894 in All Saint’s Church, Loughborough, Leicestershire), born 18th July 1873 in Boxmoor, Hertfordshire. Robert was born in the 1st quarter of 1897 in Loughborough and was baptised on the 18th August 1897 in All Saint’s Parish Church, Loughborough, he had one sibling, a sister Doris, born 6th June 1895 in Loughborough and baptised on the 18th August 1897 in All Saint’s Parish Church, Loughborough, in March 1901 the family home was at 62, Meadow Lane, Sparrow Hill, Loughborough. In April 1911 Robert was employed as an office boy and was residing in the family home at 19, Gordon Street, Loughborough, together with his father, an engine fitter, his mother and siblings, Doris, a hosiery trade worker, Luke, born 14th November 1901 and baptised on the 29th January 1902 in All Saint’s Parish Church, Loughborough, John, born 25th March 1906 and Arthur, born 2nd February 1911, the latter three siblings were all born in Loughborough. In 1939 Robert’s father, a constructional engineer, his mother and brother John, a coal haulier were all residing in the family home at 159, Derby Road, Loughborough.
Robert’s Army records did not survive, all that is known of his military service is that he had previously served with the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment before being transferred to the 9th Battalion Devonshire Regiment. He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.
On Friday January 12th 1917 The Leicester Journal published the following article under the heading. “ROLL OF HONOUR” – LOCAL MEN IN THE CASUALTY LISTS - Lance-Corporal R. Birkin, of the Devonshire Regiment, was wounded on December 27th. He joined the Army early in the war from the Falcon Works, where he was employed. Birkin’s parents live at 19, Gordon-street, Loughborough.
On Wednesday January 24th 1917 The Leicester Mercury published the following article under the heading. “LOCAL MEN IN THE CASUALTY LISTS” - The following local casualties are reported under various dates. All are Private’s except where otherwise shown. The town shown against each soldiers name is the home of his next-of-kin. WOUNDED. DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT. Birkin, 30231 Lance-Corpl. J. (Loughborough).
The War Diary records: 26 Oct 17 – GHELUVELT. See attached operations.
The night of 24/25th the Battalion moved up from ZILLEBEKE LAKE to relieve two Companies of the 5th KING’S SHROPSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY and two Companies of the 5th OXFORDSHIRE & BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY in a position opposite GHELUVELT.
The dispositions of the Battalion were:-
No. 4 Company in Front Line.
No.2 Company in Close Support.
No.1 and 3 Companies in Reserve.
The relief was completed by 9.30pm No.2 Company had 27 casualties during the relief by shell fire.
The night passed quietly and the next day everything was normal.
The morning of the 26th the Division was to attack GHELUVELT. The Battalion was to attack on a frontage of 200 yards with its right resting on the MENIN Road. The dispositions of the Battalion were to be as laid down for normal formation in attack.
No.1 and 2 Company in the Front Line.
No.3 Company Mopping Up.
No.4 Company Reserve.
The 2nd BORDER REGIMENT and 2nd GORDON HIGHLANDERS on our right, the 8th DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT to leapfrog through us at first objective.
The 5th Division on our immediate left who were attacking POLDERHOEK CHATEAU, and the high ground in the vicinity.
The tapes were laid out by 2nd Lieutenant C. STEWART at dusk on the 25th instant and the Companies were ordered to form up on the tape by 3.00am 26th instant with the exception of No.4 Company who were to stay in the front line until 3.00am and then withdraw by platoons (leaving three posts until 5.00am) to the tape which was between support and front lines. ZERO was 5.40am Companies were all reported on the tape in position by 5.00am. The Battalion had formed up in a depth of 140 yards with the 8th DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT about 50 yards in rear.
The enemy’s artillery shelled position intermittently from 4.30am until zero.
At zero when our barrage opened the enemy’s artillery opened almost immediately placing what seemed like three barrage lines. One on the forming up tape, one behind Battalion Headquarters and the third in the back areas. Machine Guns had been firing at intervals throughout the night from LEWIS HOUSE and POLDERHOEK CHATEAU.
At 5.40am the Battalion moved forward. At 6.30am 15 prisoners passed Battalion Headquarters along the MENIN Road and the advance appeared to be going well.
At 7.30am Sergeant TUCKER of the 8th DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT reported that our right flank was exposed and no troops were attacking pill boxes on right of MENIN ROAD as they were being sniped from there, but an Officer and about 30 men of his Company were holding a position in front of the railway cutting. An Officer of the 20th MACHINE GUN COMPANY reported that LEWIS HOUSE was still held by the enemy and had two Machine Guns in action. It appeared that they had held up the right of the attack and were now enfilading troops on the left. A Machine Gun was also reported firing from SWAGGER FARM and a pill box in GHELUVELT village, he also stated the infantry on the left of the road had advanced towards the village and were holding a line in advance of railway cutting, where they were held up owing to the right flank being exposed and accurate Machine Gun fire and sniping.
An orderly now reported from Captain PRIDHAM who was in charge of the front line stating that he had to withdraw to railway cutting as they were being attacked on both flanks. He also reported the mud and water in this part was so bad all his rifles and Lewis Guns had got clogged with mud and were no use without being cleaned.
At 8.00am he had seen a small party of our men who had entered the village were falling back. The enemy appeared to be occupying the positions they had evacuated in the village and were bringing up reinforcements. Soon after enemy advanced in small parties from the village covered by Machine Gun fire and were working round our flanks and as so few rifles would work we were unable to stop them. We were in touch with our left but nobody appeared on our right. The situation now appeared to be serious, and a gradual withdrawal to our original line commenced and here the men of all units in the Brigade were reorganised and started to consolidate a series of shell holes by the OXFORDSHIRE &BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY.
Up to now no information could be obtained of the situation on our right and a number of messages had been dispatched that the situation was obscured. So a right defensive flank was formed along the MENIN Road. Reinforcements were sent for and arrived about 2.00pm. Two Companies of the ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS, one Company reinforced the forward position by consolidating shell holes immediately in rear of our men. The other Company was in rear reserve for attacking purposes. At dusk our men were withdrawn to Support line to reorganise and clean their rifles.
The ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS took up a position 50 yards in rear of the OXFORDSHIRE & BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY and were in touch with troops on right and left, and had a series of posts in front. The same night another Company of the ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS relieved the 8th and 9th DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT and the Battalion were withdrawn to camp at SCOTTISH WOOD.
Signed --- Lieutenant Colonel.
Commanding 9th (S) Battn. The Devonshire Regiment.
1st November 1917.

Leicestershire Project Findings
  • Conflict - World War I
  • Other Memorials - Loughborough Carillon, War Memorial Bell Tower
Research from Michael Doyle's Their Name Liveth For Evermore
  • Unit - Devonshire Regiment
  • Former Unit n.o - 25277
  • Former Unit - South Staffordshire Regiment
  • Cause of death - KILLED IN ACTION
  • Burial Commemoration - Tyne Cot Mem., Zonnebeke, West Vlaanderen, Belgium
  • Born - Loughborough, Leicestershire
  • Enlisted - Loughborough, Leicestershire
  • Place of Residence - 19 Gordon Street, Loughborough, Leicestershire, England

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