Philip de Quetteville ROBIN


ROBIN, Philip de Quetteville

Service Number: 638
Enlisted: 24 August 1914, Morphettville, South Australia
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 10th Infantry Battalion
Born: Norwood, South Australia, 10 August 1884
Home Town: Murray Bridge, Murray Bridge, South Australia
Schooling: St Peter's College, University of Adelaide
Occupation: Accountant (Bank of Adelaide)
Died: Killed in Action, Gallipoli, 28 April 1915, aged 30 years
Cemetery: Lone Pine Memorial
No known grave
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing, National War Memorial (South Australia), St Peters Memorial*, St Peters O5 All Souls Church*, University of Adelaide WW1 Honour Roll Mitchell Bldg*
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World War 1 Service

24 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 638, 10th Infantry Battalion, Morphettville, South Australia
20 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 638, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, Adelaide
20 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 638, 10th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 638, 10th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC Gallipoli

More about Philip

Philip de Quetteville Robin was born at Norwood in 1884 and attended Saint Peter’s 1897-1900. Whilst at the School he served two years in the senior cadets, was a keen student and proved to be an all round sportsman who displayed exceptional ability as an Australian Rules football player.
After leaving school, he was employed at the mercantile house of Messrs G &R Wills and Co in Adelaide and later as an accountant with the city branch of the Union Bank until taking up an appointment with the Murray Bridge branch of the Bank of Adelaide.
Philip played his first league football game for the Norwood Football Club against Port Adelaide in 1907, and the following year became a regular player and was widely acknowledged as one of the finest wingmen in the game and frequently played in interstate games.
He played in South Australia's victorious Carnival team in 1911 and that year received the Norwood football club's award for best and fairest player, which made him the earliest player on record to receive the award.
The secretary of the Norwood Football Club Mr J. J. Woods described Philip as an energetic player who never left anything to chance. He said Robin’s ‘quick perception, rapid movement, and indomitable courage’ made him valuable as a player and man for both club and interstate games. Woods felt Philip was one of the most popular men ever to wear the red and blue Norwood colours and said his comments applied both on and off the field.
He was a good player when at St. Peter's College, and, after having performed well for the Norwood B, he was taken into the senior team, where he was for eight years. ...
One sports writer reported Robin as always scrupulously fair and his ‘electrifying dashes down the wing, weaving and dodging his way past opponents, delighted both the Redleg faithful as well as general connoisseurs of the game.’
Philip enlisted at Morphettville on 24 August 1914 and sailed for Egypt aboard the Ascanius as a member of A Company 10th Battalion in October.
After transferring from the Prince of Wales early in the morning of the landing, Lance Corporal Robin was in the prow of one of the battalion scouts boats; their orders were simple, after getting ashore, they were to ‘go like hell for Third Ridge.’
Upon reaching the shore they scrambled through the scrub and go like hell, they did, with him and Private Arthur Blackburn winding their way inland all the way to and even past Scrubby Knoll, the main objective.
This was a remarkable achievement and although they did not know it at the time, Robin and Blackburn had achieved the commander’s intent by penetrating further inland on the first day than anyone else in the entire campaign.
Lance Corporal Robin was killed within two days of the landing and although a number of documents in his service records state he was killed in action on 25 April, his ‘Little Book for Nellie’ has the last entry dated 26 April.
Almost a year after Philip’s father was notified his son had been killed in action on 25 April 1915, he wrote to Base Records to query the date of his son’s death.
Mr Robin informed the OIC that Philip’s death, ‘must have taken place on the 27th’ for by then he had received Philip’s book, which was completed up to the 26th April 1915.
A number of documents held by Robin’s family members, including this excerpt from a letter Colonel Weir wrote to Nellie Robin on 3 May 1915 corroborate this.
It is with feelings of deepest sympathy that I have to inform you that your dear husband was killed whilst fighting in the trenches on Wednesday, April 28th. He was a brave & gallant soldier and as a scout was one of the first to rush the position held by the Turks on Sunday morning April 25th. I landed at the same time as your dear one, the Turks who occupied a hill on the beach, when we landed poured their deadly bullets into our boats before we were in water shallow enough to jump out and it is a wonder any escaped. We have been under heavy fire from the moment they sighted our boats until now 9 A.M. May 3rd. All our trenches had to be dug under heavy fire. Their shrapnel is very deadly. It was indeed unfortunate that your husband after getting through the first three awful days, should have been shot.
In a letter dated 15 August 1915, Nellie wrote to a friend of Philip’s in London to thank her for her kindness in writing to express her sympathy and said how Philip had planned to take her to London after the war to introduce them and as she was planning to visit there soon, hoped they could still meet.
It has been such a terrible time – One couldn’t think of the worst happening when one saw all those fine fellows in Cairo -& we two, were so happy. I thought he must come back to me. And now all the joy of life has gone & each day makes the realization of one’s loss more & more keen. They all did their bit so nobly & were so brave, that it must make those who belong to them, feel they must do their best not to fail, but it is dreadfully hard to face it bravely always. He was so dear-...
Sadly, Nellie did not live see her beloved husband’s friends again for she died in November before the Gallipoli campaign ended.
News of the' death of Mrs Irene Nellie Robin (wife of the late-Cpl Phil. Robin), who was well known and widely popular in South Australian' football circles, and her infant son at Kensington, London, was received in Adelaide by cable message on Saturday. ...
Corporal Robin is listed on the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour register as having lost his life on 28 April 1915; he was 30 years of age.


Philip de Quetteville Robin - a family's loss

Contemporary media reports upon his death indicate that Philip Robin was “universally admired” as “…one of Australia’s best sons.” and”an exceptional character”. He was “idolized” by football supporters for his “clean, manly game.” He has been referred to as a “robust character” who was “transparently honest” and that his “sterling qualities of character far outshone the transient fame he had won as an all-round athlete.”

Tragically, Philip de Quetteville Robin's widow Nellie and their baby were overtaken by tragedy themselves when they both died in London in childbirth in November 1915.

The cost for the Robin family during the Great War was indeed high, for on 29 June 1916 one of Phillip's cousins, 2180 Corporal Arthur Mervyn Robin of the 7th Battalion, was killed at Messines.

In July 1916, another cousin, 329 Sergeant Geoffrey de Quetteville Robin of the 53rd Australian Infantry Battalion, was killed in action at Fromelles.

In February of 1917 yet another of Phillip's cousins, Lieutenant James Keeling Robin MC, was killed in action while serving with the 4th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery.

This narrative is a compilation of work by Bill Denny, AM and Bob Kearney (extract from his book "Silent Voices")

Showing 2 of 2 stories


Philip de Quetteville ROBIN (1884 - 1915)

Phil Robin was an all round sportsman but an exceptional Australian Rules footballer.

Phil made his league debut with Norwood in 1908, and was widely acknowledged as one of the finest wingmen in the game.  An interstate representative on seven occasions, he played in South Australia's victorious 1911 carnival.  That same year he received Norwood's best and fairest player award.

Scrupulously fair, Robin delighted fans with his electrifying dashes down the wing, weaving and dodging his way past opponents.  He was somewhat unfortunate to play during what was effectively a time of rebuilding at Norwood, but if anything this made the high quality of his football standout even more.

Best & Fairest: 1911
South Australian Games: 7
Reserves Magarey Medal: 1907

NFC Games: 71;   NFC Goals: 3 
Debut: v South Adelaide (Norwood) 2nd May 1908
Finale: v North Adelaide (Norwood) 29th August 1914

In 1909 he was chosen to play for South Australia and held his position until enlisting with the AIF in 1914.

For five years before enlisting he worked at the Bank of Adelaide as an accountant at the Murray Bridge branch.  He was held in high regard at Murray Bridge, involved in the Tennis Club and regarded as 'one of their own'.

He also found time for service in the Senior Cadets under the Universal Training Scheme.

When war was declared, Phil Robin was one of the early enlistees at Morphettville, signing up ten days after the camp opened.  He was older than the average recruit and his reputation as a champion footballer would certainly have preceded him.

He was allocated to 'A' Company of the 10th Battalion, the first unit raised in South Australia.  The Battalion trained in the dust and lived in bell tents erected at the racecourse.

By mid October the great convoy began forming and 10th Battalion was scheduled to embark on the 20th October 1914 at Outer Harbour aboard the HMAT Ascanius.

Arriving in Egypt after an eventful voyage during the course of which the German raider Emden was sunk by HMAS Sydney, the Battalion long with the rest of the 1st Division, encamped at Mena on he outskirts of Cairo at the foot of the pyramids.

His fiancée Miss Nellie Irene Honeywill who it seems may have been a volunteer nurse in England travelled out to Egypt. She joined him and the two were given permission to marry which they did on 20 January 1915. From all accounts it was a happy occasion during which the Battalion wished Robin and his wife “…peace, long life and prosperity.” After the ceremony Robin and his wife enjoyed a short honeymoon in Cairo.

After completing their training in Egypt, the 1st Division including the 10th Battalion embarked for the island of Lemnos, from whence the Gallipoli Landing was launched. 

In mid February Philip Robin was promoted to Lance Corporal and at about this time the Scouts were formed within A Company.  It is with his  section of men that his indistinct image was recorded in a pwoerful photograph that has come to represent the plight of many of the ANZACs.  The links below detail the stories of each of these men.

Phil Robin was among the first ashore at Gallipoli on the very first ANZAC Day, 25 April 1915.

He landed with the Battalion scouts from the Prince of Wales at the historic landing on 25 April 1915 and distinguished himself that day by penetrating the greatest distance inland. With his mate Arthur Seaforth Blackburn he reached his farthest point after circling the east side of Scrubby Knoll to the north of it, a direct distance of about 2,000 yards from the beach at Anzac Cove.
(Until 1934 it was generally conceded that Lieut N M Loutit and Private Fordham of the 10th, reached the farthest inland point, but in 1934 Dr C E W Bean intimated that Robin and Blackburn probably claim that distinction. In reference to this incident Blackburn said:

“All that I have done is to supply Dr Bean, at his request, with charts and descriptions of the course that Phil Robin and I took after leaping from the boats at dawn on 25 April 1915. I do not know precisely how far we or anyone else went, and a statement as to who went farthest into Gallipoli is Dr Bean’s responsibility based on information which he has gathered from myself, other men, and official documents. On the morning of that 25 April, Robin who was my old tent mate, and I were in the prow of one of the early boats to land. Our instructions were in effect ‘Go like hell for the Third Ridge’. We leapt ashore and scrambled through the scrub by a winding route. We believed that we passed Third Ridge. Phil Robin was killed later that day.”

Sadly peace, a long life and prosperity was not to be, with Phil Robin's death on that day of the Gallipoli campaign, his body was never recovered. He has no known grave, like many of his comrades, struck down in the scrub covered hills and ravines of Gallipoli listed as "Missing presumed killed in Action".

He had with him his “Little Book for Nellie.”

After her husband’s death Nellie arranged for his effects with him at Gallipoli to be distributed among his mates at the Front (see the photo of his section).  She wrote to a friend:

“It has been such a terrible time – One couldn’t think of the worst happening when one saw all those fine fellows in Cairo & we two were so happy. I thought he must come back to me. And now all the joy of life has gone & each day makes the realization of one’s loss more & more keen. They all did their bit so nobly & were so brave, that it must make those that belong to them feel they must do their best not to fail, but it is so dreadfully hard to face it bravely always. He was so dear…

Nellie later re-located to England, having discovered she was pregnant with their baby. Tragically, Nellie and baby both died in child-birth on 19 November 1915, closing a small but poignant chapter of lives swept up in the turmoil of war.

This narrative and the accompanying story is a compilation of work
by Bill Denny, AM, BM and Bob Kearney (extract from his book "Silent Voices").

1914-15 Star (4387); British War medal (4743); Victory medal (4742); Memorial Plaque and
Memorial Scroll (305813)

He was commemorated on Panel 32 on the Lone Pine Memorial, Cannakale, Turkey.

Private Robin's name is located at panel 60 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT.

His name is commemorated in North Road Church of England Cemetery, Adelaide, SA with his parents Rowland and Mary ROBIN.

The Flowers of the Forest (a work in progress)

Arthur BLACKBURN (/explore/people/930)

Guy FISHER (/explore/people/373586)

John GORDON (/explore/people/198723)

Wilfid JOSE (/explore/people/173634)

Eric MELDRUM (/explore/people/55797)

Philip ROBIN (/explore/people/9135)

Francis STOKES (/explore/people/60171)

Malcolm TEASEDALE-SMITH (/explore/people/190689)

Thomas WHYTE (/explore/people/170704)



Born: 10/8/1884 in Norwood, Adelaide, South Australia
(SA Birth Records 1842 - 1906 Book: 333 Page: 200 District: Nor.)

Father Rowland Barbenson Robin and Mother Mary Friend Whitney Robin (nee Canaway),
living at 28 Edwin Terrace, Gilberton, SA.

Mrs E C Ashwin
Dorothy Margaret Robin
(b. 3/7/1887 East Adelaide - d. ___) - SA Birth Records 1842-1906 Bk:399 Pge:486 District: Nor.
Beatirce Ruth Robin
(b. 31/10/1888 East Adelaide - d. ___) - SA Birth Records 1842-1906 Bk:427 Pge:315 District: Nor.    
Mary de Quetteville Robin
(b. 14/5/1894 East Adelaide - d. ___) - SA Birth Records 1842-1906 Bk:543 Pge:406 District: Nor.
Rowland Cuthbert Robin
(b. 5/8/1898 St Peters - d.___) - SA Birth Records 1842-1906 Bk:627 Pge:14 District: Nor.

Next of kin in service - Cousins:
2180 Corporal Arthur Mervyn Robin,  7th Battalion
        (KIA  29/6/1916  at Messines)
329   Sergeant Geoffrey de Quetteville Robin, 53rd Australian Infantry Battalion
        (KIA July 1916  at Fromelles)
Lieutenant James Keeling Robin MC, 4th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery
        (KIA February 1917)

Time line from Service Record

24/8/1914    Enlisted at Morphettville Camp, SA
                   in the 10th Battlion, 1st AIF

28/8/1914    completed medical - fit for service

28/9/1914    Commanding Officer appointed Philip to 'A' Company, 10th Battalion, AIF
                   Morphettville Camp

20/10/1914  Embarked from Outer Harbour, Port Adelaide on board HMAT A11 Ascanius
                   as a Private with the 10th Infanty Battalion, A Company

18/2/1915    promoted to Lance Corporal

 (Read more on links in the sidebar)

Additions by Julianne T Ryan.  6/2/2015.  Lest we forget.