Relatives of Aberdeen-born Lieutenant Robert Grierson Combe VC are being sought ahead of a commemoration to mark the centenary of the award of his Victoria Cross for action in the First World War.
The Lord Provost of Aberdeen George Adam is keen to hear from descendants of Robert Combe, who was born in Aberdeen on 5 August 1880 to James and Elizabeth and attended Ferryhill School and Aberdeen Grammar School before serving an apprenticeship in pharmacy. He immigrated to Canada in his mid-twenties and operated his own pharmacy in Melville, Saskatchewan until 1915 when he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
He was promoted to the rank of Major away from combat duty but requested to revert to Lieutenant in order to fight on the front line.
Lt Combe found himself in heavy fighting around the area of Vimy in France with the 27th Battalion City of Winnipeg. On 3rd May 1917 he was killed during an assault on German trenches near the town of Acheville.
The Victoria Cross citation reads: “For most conspicuous bravery and example. He steadied his Company under intense fire and led them through the enemy barrage, reaching the objective with only five men. With great coolness and courage Lt Combe proceeded to bomb the enemy, and inflicted heavy casualties. He collected small groups of men and succeeded in capturing the Company objective, together with eighty prisoners. He repeatedly charged the enemy, driving them before him, and whilst personally leading his bombers was killed by an enemy sniper. His conduct inspired all ranks, and it was entirely due to his magnificent courage that the position was carried, secured and held.”
The Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously and presented to Lt Combe’s wife Jean, by the Prince of Wales. The medal is held by the Saskatchewan Archives in Canada.
The Lord Provost of Aberdeen, George Adam, said: “In this horrific war, there were extraordinary acts of individual bravery which saved the lives of many other men. Lt Combe gave his life for the freedom of others and his actions are part of this city’s proud military history. It would be fitting to share the centenary with his family.”
Relatives of Lt Combe should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01224 522470.
The UK Government has produced commemorative stones to honour all those who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. These are being laid across the country on the centenary of the act of bravery for which the award was made. The memorial to Lt Robert Combe will be laid in Aberdeen on 3 May 2017, one hundred years to the day of his death.
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