DOUGLAS ROBSON (1905-1942)
July 6, 2005
The Internet really does make this World a much smaller place. It's a wonder! Please read on...
Dear Mr Moore,
My father, Lieutenant D. Robson was a passenger in the plane that your uncle was flying on the 14th March 1942. The passenger list refers, incorrectly, to "6. D.Rocksen". My father was a member of the British Military mission to China- his boss being Major General Dennys. My brother and I have for some time been trying to find out details of the work with which my father was involved. Either our UK records have been scrapped, or because of military restrictions papers related to his work are not in the public domain. This latter point may be fanciful, but was suggested by a former RAF Group Captain who had worked in RAF Personnel, and who said that papers could be held secretly for up to 75 years. When I questioned this and said that by that time all direct relatives could be dead, he replied by saying 'Exactly!'. We finally found out the name of the head of the military mission and from that I got onto your very interesting web site.
The quest for information about my fathers activities stems from the wish by my mother, after all these years, to know what happened to my father, and what he was doing when he was killed. My mother is now 95, and for many years did not want to talk about the subject. You might be interested in a brief summary of the story, even though it has nothing to do with your uncle, and the only connection is the crash.
My father came from the north east of England, and went to Christ's College Cambridge to read medicine. After two years, he decided that he did not want to be a doctor, and went back to Newcastle, and studied to be a lawyer. At some stage in his 20's he fell in love with a girl, and then decided that he did not want to marry her, and to forget about her he went out to India to work. My mother's father was an electrical engineer in India. I do not know when he went out there, but my mother was born in England in 1910, went to school in England, and then went out to India in the late 20's. She met my father and was married in 1931.
War broke out, and there was a major threat to India from the Japanese who by early '42 had of course captured much of S.E Asia, and were all set to capture Singapore, and then Burma. My father joined up in 1941, and was in fact in the Indian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RINVR ). My mother believes that he was in Naval Intelligence, but what exactly he did, we do not know. With the increasing Japanese threat he persuaded my mother to return to England with the their two children, my brother Michael aged 7, and me aged 2. We were routed via South Africa, and it was there, when we were waiting for a boat, that my mother heard that my father had been killed. She decided to stay in South Africa, and we finally left in April 1945 to return to the UK. I won't ramble on much more, other than to mention information that we found in the British Library, where Foreign and Commonwealth records are kept. We found a file on my father, which was noticeable because of the lack of information about his work, and it seemed to us that the file had been 'sifted'. Amongst other things, we found various correspondence from my mother, who was entitled to a war widows pension. As a Lieutenant, the widows pension was £120 per year, and for each child she was entitled to £30 per year extra. But she was required to prove who she was. The proof required was the original of her marriage certificate. She also had to prove with originals of our birth certificates that my brother and I were her children. There are formal copy letters from some zealous clerk in Calcutta demanding that "send us original copies of your marriage certificate, and original copies of your children's birth certificates. We cannot pay your pensions until you furnish us with these papers." And my mother's rather desperate replies. The fact was that my mother was very short of money - she had been married in England - her children had been born in India, which is where her papers were - she was living in South Africa - and finally there was a little matter of a World War going on!
She was befriended by a marvellous American couple, the Aclys. Bob was in the American Foreign Service in South Africa. They were incredibly kind to us, and stayed lifelong friends. After the war, when they were transferred to Burma, Barbara, who is sadly now dead, came to live with us for a year in England in 1948. My mother went every year to see Mrs. Acly in Massachusetts until she became too old to travel. I last visited Mrs. Acly in the States shortly before she died, in 1992, I think.
Anyhow, I promised not to ramble, and that is exactly what I have done! I suppose it is a very long shot, but if you can suggest any sources of information in the States to which a foreigner might have access relating to the British Military Mission to China, then I would be most grateful.
What an extraordinary thing the Internet is!
And here's more from Jeremy...
July 14, 2005
Thank you for your e mail, and for making a web site for my father. Lets hope that we can get some information from it. Thanks for your help.
My father's name was Douglas Robson - born 11.11.1905. I don't know what his favourite songs were! But he was an excellent amateur pianist, and just before he joined up he was practising the Grieg Piano Concerto to play at a concert performence with the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra. His teacher, Mrs Miller, was a lady who played the piano in the first performence of Petrouchka in Paris with Stravinsky conducting.
Good to hear from you.