Charles William Robb, Royal Marine

According to information transcribed from the family Bible, Charles William Robb was born on 23 October 1878 and died at Aden in December 1904, age 26. He was the oldest son of my great grandparents, Charles Edward Robb and Louisa Bowman.

Charles William Robb’s Royal Marines certificate of service was found among the papers of  my late grandfather (his youngest brother), Arthur Ernest Robb, who died in 1979. The certificate was inside a registered Corporation of London envelope addressed to Mr. Charles Edward Robb at 86 Kensington Avenue, East Ham, postmarked Aldermanbury, 29 o9 (?) o5.

The certificate of service gives a birth date – 24 October 1879 – which differs from that in the family Bible. It states that Charles was born in Canning Town; his father’s name and address (29 Pell Street, St. George’s) are given under ‘next of kin’. His trade is described as ‘cellarman’ and his religion as ‘Wesleyan’. He enlisted in the service in London on 21 August 1899, at the age of 19. Charles joined ‘G’ company and his register number was 10417. The personal details on the certificate include the information that he was 5 feet  5 inches tall, had a ‘fresh’ complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes.

On enlistment Charles was sent to the recruit depot at Deal. On 24 May 1900 he was attached to the Portsmouth division, from which he embarked on the  ‘Australia’ on 3 October 1900. He was back in Portsmouth in October 1901, before embarking on the ‘St. George’ in November, and then the ‘Good Hope’ in the following November.

On the 12 December 1902 Charles transferred to the ‘Naiad’, but was discharged on 24 December. The cause of discharge is given as ‘S.S. – E.G. Hospital Aden’. No further information is given. Throughout his service, Charles’s character and ability are consistently decribed as ‘very good’. He remained a private throughout his time in the Marines.

Aden was a strategic port for British trade and military power and at the time was ruled as part of British India. I’ve been unable to find details of the ‘Naiad’s’ mission in Aden, but the ship’s log for another British ship, the ‘Perseus’, throws some light on the context. It includes several references to the Naiad and its movements, including a mention of its arrival in port on 24 December 1902, the day that Charles was taken ashore to the hospital.

Given that Charles did not die until two years after his hospitalisation in Aden, it seems likely that he was taken ill, rather than wounded. I’ve yet to find any independent confirmation of his death: I’m not sure if his death certificate would be held in military or civilian archives.

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