Robert William Melbourn was born on the 7th July 1913 at 16, Silvester Lane, Beverley, Yorkshire. At the time of his birth Robert’s mother, Gertie Edmunds, was recorded as being employed as a Domestic Servant.
His mother was born on the 6th January 1897 at Beverley. In the 1911 census she was recorded as living with her parents at 16, Silvester Lane, Beverley.
Gertie’s mother, Ada Edmunds, registered Robert’s birth as Robert William Edmunds on the 29th July 1913 and he was baptised in the same name on 5th September 1913 at St Mary’s Church, Beverley. Their address was shown as 16, Silvester Lane, Beverley. No father’s name was recorded.
On 6th April 1915, again at St Mary’s, Beverley, Gertie Edmunds, aged 18 years and a spinster of 16, Silvester Lane, Beverley, married George William Melbourn of Darlington, aged 20 years (born 4th May 1894), a bachelor and employed as a house painter. Gertie recorded her father as a labourer called Robert Edmunds.
George and Gertie went on to have 2 daughters, Ada E. Melbourn in 1920 and Vera Melbourn in 1923. It would appear that following Gertie’s marriage Robert adopted the surname of Melbourn.
Robert William Melbourn’ s Army Service.
Robert’s Army Service Record is held by the Ministry of Defence, but we know from documents that are publicly available that he enlisted in the in the Coldstream Guards as Guardsman 2655658. His date of enlistment is unknown, but he was later discharged to the Army Reserve.
Robert William Melbourn’ s Police Service.
Robert’s Police Service Record has not survived and his date of appointment to the St. Albans City Police is not known although as can be seen below it was before he was married. The only Police record is a reference in a Pension book that a pension was granted to a male officer by the surname of Melbourn who is recorded as having been a St. Albans City officer.
On the 12th June 1937 Robert William Melbourn a bachelor aged 23 years and a Police Constable of 113, Tavistock Avenue, St. Albans married Winifred Garhard, at St. James Church, Clerkenwell, London. He gave his father as George William Melbourn a Painter. Winifred was born on the 7th April 1916 and was a spinster of 64, Northampton Buildings E.C.1 and gave her father as Daniel Henry Garhard an Engineer.
Robert and Winifred had a son John William Melbourn who was born on the 16th October 1937 at 113, Tavistock Avenue, St. Albans. Robert was again recorded as being a Police Constable of that address.
In the 1939 Register, living at 100, Victoria Street, St. Albans, is Robert William Melbourn, born on the 7th July 1913, who is shown as a Police Constable warrant number 21. It is also recorded that he was a Section B Army Reservist 2655658 of the Coldstream Guards. Living with him are Winifred and their son.
Robert William Melbourn’ s Army Service In World War 2.
Being a reservist Robert would have been recalled to the colours soon after the outbreak of war.
On 9th May 1943 Sergeant 2655658 Robert William Melbourn was wounded whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards in North Africa.
On 23rd September 1943 Sergeant R.W. Melbourn 2655658, 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards was Gazetted having been Mentioned in Despatches whilst serving in North Africa: “The King has been graciously pleased to approve that the following be mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in North Africa.”
On 10th June 1944 he was killed in action again whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards in Italy. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website record shows: “In Memory of Serjeant Robert William Melbourn 2655658, 2nd Bn., Coldstream Guards who died on 10 June 1944 Age 30. Son of George William and Gertie Melbourn; husband of Winifred Melbourn, of Chessington, Surrey. Remembered with Honour Bolsena War Cemetery.”
He was one of ten Coldstreamer Guards who were killed that day. They were all re-buried In Bolsena War Cemetery on the 10th July 1945. Robert was buried in Plot 4, Row E, Grave 18. Bolsena War Cemetery is situated on the eastern side of Lake Bolsena, between Rome and Siena. The family requested the following inscription to be placed on his headstone: “Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends.”
On 3rd September 1943, the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. Progress through southern Italy was rapid despite stiff resistance, but the advance was checked for some months at the German winter defensive position known as the Gustav Line. The line eventually fell in May 1944 and as the Germans fell back, Rome was taken by the Allies on 3 June. The Germans made their first stand after being driven north of Rome at Bolsena and to the east of Lake Bolsena, there was a tank battle in June 1944 between the 6th South African Armoured Division and the Hermann Goering Panzer Division.
Bolsena War Cemetery is situated on the eastern side of Lake Bolsena just west of the SS2, between Rome (104 kilometres) and Siena (115 kilometres). The site for the cemetery was chosen in November 1944, and graves were brought in from the battlefields between Bolsena and Orvieto. The cemetery is on the actual site of the first camp occupied by General Alexander’s advanced headquarters after the liberation of Rome and it was here that King George VI visited General Alexander at the end of July 1944. The cemetery was designed by Louis de Soissons.
His widow Winifred never remarried and died on 10th January 1991 whilst living at 27, Compton Crescent, Chessington, Surrey.