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Naval Gallipoli VC hero honoured in Greenwich – a century after his immortal deed
27 February 2015

Today’s sailors and Royal Marines saluted WW1 Victoria Cross winner Lt Cdr Eric Robinson as a commemorative paving stone was laid outside the family home in Greenwich.

The officer becomes the third member of the Senior Service to be honoured in his native borough with a special slab, one of more than 1,300 such stones being installed around the UK as part of 100th anniversary commemorations of the Great War.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Luron Wright, FRPU East

DAMPENED by the rain which fell on the nation’s capital in abundance, this is the impressive slab honouring a Naval hero – unveiled 100 years to the day of his immortal deed.

Today’s sailors and Royal Marines saluted Eric Gascoigne Robinson VC, the latest member of the Senior Service to be recognised with a commemorative paving stone outside the family home – in this case Diamond Terrace in Greenwich.

More than 1,300 Victoria Cross winners from the Great War are being so honoured in their native boroughs with ‘Kipper’ Robinson the third sailor to receive Britain’s highest military honour.

Eric 'Kipper' Robinson VC – pictured here as a lieutenant about the time of the Boxer Rebellion in China

On the afternoon of February 26 1915, a party of 100 Royal Marines and sailors were sent ashore near Kum Kale in Turkey as part of the opening moves of the Gallipoli campaign.

Led by torpedo officer Lt Cdr Robinson, the sailors were to destroy coastal and anti-aircraft batteries.

Almost immediately the sailors became pinned down by enemy fire.

Robinson told his men to take cover while he went on, alone, evading the fire of snipers, and found the guns unoccupied.

Gun cotton charges destroyed two of the weapons, but Robinson scurried back down the hill for a second charge to finish off the task while the guns of the battleships brought down an iron rain upon the Turkish positions.

Rear Admiral Parr speaks to those gathered outside Lt Cdr Robinson's former family home

From the bridge of Vengeance, it seemed to Capt Bertram Smith that Eric Robinson was in his element “strolling around by himself under heavy fire – like a sparrow enjoying a bath from a garden hose”.

Having dispatched the guns on the wonderfully-named Achilles Mound, Robinson led his party to Orhanie, blew up a 9.4in gun, then began to return to the picket boats moored at Kum Kale pier. They got as far as the village cemetery – where the Turks offered fierce opposition, using a large domed mausoleum as their nest of resistance. Somehow Robinson got a message back to his ship whose guns “sent the tomb and fragments of its inmates – both ancient and modern – flying heavenwards.”

Robinson would go on to repeatedly demonstrate his fortitude under fire during the bungled campaign, culminating in leading another demolition party to scuttle the submarine E15 which had run aground.

Greenwich's mayor Cllr Mick Hayes is shielded from the rain as he praises Lt Cdr Robinson's bravery

That latter mission was worthy of Britain’s highest award, but it was for the raid on Orkanie that ‘Kipper’ Robinson was awarded the Victoria Cross, much to the surprise of Sackville Carden’s chief-of-staff, the thrusting Cdre Roger Keyes.

“I am honestly lost in admiration for Robinson, he has done splendidly and I honestly am surprised,” he wrote. “I did not think much of him as a First Lieutenant. But that evidently does not prevent him being an exceedingly brave man.”

Members of the Robinson family attended the unveiling with dignitaries from Greenwich, and RN personnel, led by Commander Operations Rear Admiral Matt Parr who was in awe of Lt Cdr Robinson’s “selfless actions”.

He added: “His courage, determination and fortitude in the face of overwhelming enemy action remain an example to us all; I am delighted that this commemorative stone will serve as a permanent memorial to a remarkable man.”

Cllr Hayes said he was struck by “a tremendous story of heroism which was truly astounding – and fully merited the award of the Victoria Cross.”

Eric Robinson left the RN in 1933 as a rear admiral but was recalled to service when war broke out, directing Atlantic convoys in the face of the U-boat menace.

He retired a second time in 1944 and settled in Petersfield in Hampshire, where he was a very active member of the parish council. He died in 1965 aged 83.