Boy 1st Class George Hugh Robbins

Service: Royal Navy HMS Indefatigable
Service No: J/45404/PO
Date & place of birth: 27 March 1900 in Chelsea
Date & place of death: 31 May 1916 in Battle of Jutland, aged 16

George Hugh Robbins was one of two sons from Selham House who died in the war. George was the son of the chauffeur; the other, Francis Charles Lacaita, was the son of the house’s owner. George was only just 16 and had served for just 6 months when he was lost with his ship in the Battle of Jutland.

Family background

George Hugh Robbins was born in Chelsea, London on 27 March 1900. He was the son of Levi and Elizabeth Robbins. Levi and Elizabeth also had a younger daughter Elizabeth Edith. By 1908 the family was living in The Stables, Selham House, Selham.

Levi was coachman and subsequently chauffeur to Charles Carmichael Lacaita, with whom he travelled widely in Europe in search of rare botanical specimens: this work lasted from 1905 to 1950.

Military service

George enlisted in the Royal Navy for 12 years. From 20 October 1915 he served as Boy 2nd Class on the school ship HMS Impregnable. He was promoted to Boy 1st Class on 15 April 1916 and transferred to the battlecruiser HMS Indefatigable later that month.

Death & commemoration

George was lost with the battlecruiser on 31 May 1916 during the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the war. Part of Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty’s Battlecruiser Fleet, she was hit several times in the first minutes of the ‘Run to the South’, the opening phase of the battlecruiser action. Shells from the German battlecruiser Von der Tann caused an explosion ripping a hole in her hull, and a second explosion hurled large pieces of the ship 200 feet in the air. Only two of the crew of 1,019 survived. George was aged 16.

He is commemorated on The Portsmouth Naval Memorial panel MR.3 and on the Selham war memorial.

Subsequent family history

In 1937 George’s sister Elizabeth married James Rose and subsequently lived in Midhurst.

George’s mother Elizabeth died in 1945 aged 77 and his father Levi in Selham in April 1963 aged 87. Levi was buried in the churchyard. In his spare time he had been a keen angler, fishing in the River Rother.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project