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Robert Robinson Smyth (1900-1916)

Boy from Hartlepool served in the Royal Navy at the Battle of Jutland

Robert Robinson Smyth was born in Hartlepool on 7 May 1900. His mother was Mary Elizabeth Smyth nee Campion, a laundress. She was originally from Whitby, Yorkshire and was the daughter of a master mariner. She married John George Smyth (1855-1890) in Hartlepool in 1877 and they had six children before his early death in 1890. There is no record of her marrying again but after being widowed she had a daughter called Lily Robinson Smyth in 1895 before Robert was born in 1900.

In 1901, the family was headed by Mary and lived in a tenement at 7 Melbourne Street, Hartlepool. The family consisted of two sons from her marriage and the two children she had after she was widowed. It may be coincidence but they lived next to a family called Robinson, the middle name she gave to her two youngest children.

Robert’s mother died in 1905. No record can be found of him with certainty in the 1911 census but it appears that he went to sea at some point before he joined the Royal Navy in 1915 as his civilian occupation is recorded as a seaman on his service record.

Robert joined the Royal Navy as a boy 2nd class on 13 September 1915 when he was fifteen years four months and seven days old. He was given the service number J43971. He was five feet three and a half inches tall with a 34 inch chest when he joined. He had brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. His records note he had a scar on the top of his head and a scar on his left cheek.

Robert began his service on HMS Impregnable, a training establishment at Devonport, Plymouth, Devon. He was promoted to boy 1st class while he was there on 8 January 1916. On 30 March 1916, Robert joined the crew of the battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary. The ship put to sea on 31 May 1916 to take part in the Battle of Jutland. She came under fire and one shell hit forward and detonated one or both of the forward magazines, which broke the ship in two near the foremast. A further explosion, possibly from shells breaking loose, shook the aft end of the ship as it began to roll over and sink. A total of 1,266 crewmen including Robert were lost in the sinking.

Robert was 16 years and 25 days old when he died. His body was not recovered for burial and he is honoured on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. The Navy informed his sister Lily of his death as his next of kin. He is remembered on a number of war memorials in Hartlepool including the Harbour Light memorial and the obelisk in Victory Square.

Robert Robinson Smyth was awarded the Victory Medal and British War Medal for his service in World War One.

Civil Parish: Hartlepool

Birth date: 07-May-1900

Death date: 31-May-1916

Armed force/civilian: Navy

Residence: 7 Melbourne Street, West Hartlepool (1901census)

Employment: Seaman (1915, Royal Navy service record)

Family: Parents: Mary Smyth nee Campion (1856-1905)
Siblings: Lily Robinson Smyth (1895)

Military service:

Boy 2nd class, 13 September 1915
Boy 1st class, 8 January 1916
HMS Impregnable, 1915-1916
HMS Queen Mary, 30 March 1916 - 31 May 1916

Medal(s): Victory Medal
British War Medal

Memorial(s): Plymouth Naval Memorial
Book of Remembrance Fallen 1914-18, Hartlepool
Harbour Light, Hartlepool
Obelisk, Victory Square, Hartlepool

Gender: Male

Contributed by David D, Stanley, Co Durham