Catalogue description PP/MCR/198; Mss memoirs of Commander V J Robinson RN

This record is held by Imperial War Museum Department of Documents

Details of VJR/1
Reference: VJR/1
Title: PP/MCR/198; Mss memoirs of Commander V J Robinson RN

Vivian John Robinson was born in May 1897, the youngest son of a very prosperous and closely knit family who lived a few miles outside Bristol. For him the years before 1914 were a golden age of long holidays and sporting pastimes, marred only by the deaths of his father and eldest brother. Although no explanation is offered for the decision to enter him for the Royal Navy, he passed the interview (pp 12-14) and joined the Royal Naval College Osborne as a member of the Blake Term of May 1910. Their term officer was Lieutenant J C (later Admiral of the Fleet Lord) Tovey and, although not academically distinguished, Robinson enjoyed himself in the atmosphere of Osborne (pp 2-4). At Dartmouth between 1912 and 1914 he found the routine "very much more strenuous": the cadets were required to go everywhere at the double and to take exercise every day. Nonetheless Robinson "... was sorry to leave as it was a good place and enjoyable ..." (pp 14-20). From the end of May to the end of July 1914 he was a cadet in the training cruiser Cumberland (pp 21-24), but on the outbreak of war he was appointed to HMS Juno as a midshipman (see VJR/2/1 below).


Robinson's service during the 1914-18 War is described in detail under VJR/3/1-2 below which is the most extensive record of that period of his life. In the summer of 1919 Robinson, now a Lieutenant, was appointed to the light cruiser Calcutta, the flagship on the North America and West Indies Station, and this was to be "... the happiest period of my rather brief naval career ..." (p 82). HMS Calcutta was commanded by Captain P L H (later Admiral Sir Percy) Noble, who was "... a grand and immaculate officer beloved by all ..." (p 83). From time to time the ship's company were required for police duty in the British West Indies, but in many ways the commission was a twenty months' pleasure cruise after the war: for instance they never carried out a full-scale battle practice shoot (p 101). For six weeks in June and July 1920 Robinson acted as a temporary ADC to the Governor-General of Canada, the Duke of Devonshire (pp 93-96). During the commission Robinson decided to specialize in wireless telegraphy and visual signalling and he applied successfully for the one year course at HM Signal School, Portsmouth (pp 102-3). With seven other lieutenants he began the course in September 1921 and, although only adequate at wireless telegraphy, he passed the examinations the following summer (pp 110-15). He was then appointed the Signalling Officer in HMS Campbell (3rd Destroyer Flotilla, Home Fleet), which was commanded by the volatile but fair Captain (later Vice-Admiral) F F Rose (pp 115-17, 124-25). Because of the political crisis in Turkey and the military threat to the British garrison in Constantinople, the Flotilla were ordered out to the Eastern Mediterranean in late 1922 to bolster the British presence there. The situation was resolved, however, by diplomacy rather than force and, on the Flotilla's return to the United Kingdom in March 1923, Robinson resigned from the Royal Navy and joined the emergency list as he was now married and wanted to make a permanent home (pp 125-6). From 1924 to 1939 he was employed in a family business in Bristol: office work was not much to his liking and he found more pleasure in local government, serving as Sheriff of Bristol in 1936.


The Munich crisis, when Robinson was briefly recalled to the Signal School in Portsmouth, brought home to him and his friends the unpleasant possibility of another war (pp 157-60) and, on mobilization in September 1939, he was appointed the officer in charge of the Signal School at Devonport (p 161), an appointment which he was to hold throughout the Second World War. He found his work monotonous and not too taxing, but was in a position to witness the homecoming of the cruisers Ajax and Exeter after the Battle of the River Plate (pp 165-6), the first daylight bombing raid on Plymouth docks on 25 September 1940 (pp 169-70) and the series of heavy night raids, especially in March and April 1941, when the town, but not the dockyard, was absolutely devastated. The Signal School was moved a few miles out of Plymouth in February 1943, to what in peacetime had been a hutted holiday camp, and here Robinson met the Wren officer who was to become his second wife after his divorce in 1946. Robinson was demobilized shortly after the end of the Second World War, but the third volume of his memoirs, which covers his life from that time up to May 1977, has not been copied.

Date: 1976-77
Held by: Imperial War Museum Department of Documents, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Physical description: 188 pp

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