Warrant Officer William G. Robins died on 01 April 1923. He was buried in North Bougainville.

Mr Jason Daniels is the manager of the Office of Australian War Graves in Port Moresby. One of his responsibilities is the large war cemetery at Bomana in Port Moresby. Jason had asked me to try and find Robins when I had the chance. He indicated an area where he thought the grave might be.

Yesterday my friend Peter Pigott and I travelled down the big island to have a look for the Robins grave. Pete is up visiting Edwina and I, spending time checking out Bougainville, a bit of swimming and surfing, and generally relaxing. After a few hectic years relocating to Australia with Fiona, new work and the arrival of their daughter Anna, I hope his time here is enjoyable.

We rolled down the island on the back of a ute and got off at the Raua River. We chatted to a few people and met a man named Anton Levu. He took us looking for a chief in the area to explain what Pete and I were doing and to get permission to look around.

We found Mr Raphael Boras and his wife Betty. After introductions and a short conversation we set off back up the road to Veton Village to find Raphael’s father. It was great to wander up the road, chatting with Anton, Betty, Raphael and Pete.

Matthew BorasWhen we got to Veton we sat down and had a chat with Mr Matthew Boras, Raphael’s father. Once we made clear what we were doing we got around to where the grave of W.G. Robins might be. Matthew quickly narrowed the possible location down, but warned us that the grave site that was there was not in good condition.

 He said that the concrete had been broken up during the Bougainville crisis as people looked for weapons to use. It seems that quite a few graves were opened during the crisis, as it was a theme that was spoken about on a few occasions during the day. There does not seem to be any malicious intent to the destruction, as the remains were said to be left alone when no weapons were found.

The state of the headstone at the likely site was up for debate, with a few stories as to whether it had been put aside or smashed. As people described how they remembered the headstone we gained a bit of hope with comments that seemed to indicate a commissioned headstone (something Jason Daniels had mentioned it might have). The identity of the remains in the grave site we were speaking about was a little unclear, as a few names were mentioned, mainly to do with the plantation we were on and the surrounding properties.

So off we went back down the road toward the river. There was no assumption that we would be successful, just a positive feeling that there was a good chance now.

We crossed the Raua and continued down the east coast road. By this time we had a small group of young men accompanying Pete, Raphael, Betty, Anton and I. 

A small track off the side of the road in amongst the cocoa plants was taken, and we were wandering in under cover which was a great compared to the heat from the road. However the mosquitoes were not a welcome change.  

A few minutes down the bush track and two low concrete slabs came into view. The smaller slab was said to be for a generator, while a larger slab to the north was accommodation or a workshop for employees of the plantation.

Next to the slabs was what appeared to be a concrete covered grave that had been broken open.

Turning headstone (c) Peter PigottThe headstone lay on the eastern side of the grave, face down. We carefully turned the stone to check for an inscription…. and there it was. The rising sun emblem came into view, dirty but well preserved. Excited we finished turning the stone over, and confirmed that this was the resting place of W.G. Robins.

A few more pictures followed to record the headstone inscription, then we marked the grave with a small handheld GPS and sketched the site (I’ll never be employed as a draftsman!).

We did not check for remains, other than a quick look over the surface of the grave. We can only assume that the remains are still there, below a few feet of soil. Those with us indicated that their understanding was that the bones had not been tampered with or removed.

Two large pieces of concrete are still lying over the grave, so I assume a degree of protection is still there. The foot to the headstone is also un-moved along with the two large concrete slabs next to the grave, so there are some reliable points of reference for relocation if the site becomes obscured.

Once finished the headstone was turned back face down and we headed out to the road to find a lift back north.

A great day with a small sense of getting something resolved. It will be interesting to see what happens with the site in the next few years.

The inscription on the headstone reads:

 

287 W/OFFICER

WILLIAM G. ROBINS

53RD BATTALION

1st APRIL 1923

BELOVED HUSBAND OF MAY

FATHER OF THELMA & GEORGE

DUTY NOBLY DONE.

 

Ride home (c) Peter Pigott

9 Responses to William G. Robins

  • Duncan MacLennan says:

    Dear David

    Thank you for finding this grave, your report and the photos, they are much appreciated.

    Regards
    Duncan

    Deputy Director, Operations
    Office of Australian War Graves

  • bruce hart says:

    David, this is a fascinating discovery. I do not always comprehend when I read an email that there is more to see by way of a blog or whatever it is that lurks invitingly below. And having just wandered though your visual and fascinating feelings for events and elements of your life I was affected and moved by your sensitivity.

    Though I had no doubts about that it was a surprise to see what is here so carefully recorded and celebrated. And your observation of and for Mike Amendolia is touching as I agree that he is one of a kind.

    I knew you were made of stern stuff a long time ago but I don’t believe you know this story. First or second class with me in Nth Syd. and we are some 30 odd students. One tap – ( or was it two ) and the facilities in the processing area were abysmal and I threatened to resign. The fey HOD even though he was a nice guy – nearly shit himself – and gave me what I asked for. Immediately we needed buckets to measure out chemicals etc. And you volunteered to go find and buy buckets etc etc and during that entire semester you worked your butt of and listened and took what I had to say seriously. From day one I recognised your intent and committment – it doesn’t happen often – but one person like you every 5 years is all that is needed.

    I came across a guy from London on the web who also acknowledged me but in trying to contact him he got scared and disappeared. So in 30 years of teaching I can feel satisfied that I contributed to a few peoples lives without dominating or controlling. But I will always remember that you were the only person I threatened re Cyprus – and I am so pleased that I did.
    You see it was the buckets that gave me the clue – no don’t try to understand – we’ll have a beer or 10 some day and I may try to explain then. Meanwhile continue being who you are.

    Bruce.

  • Betty says:

    I have been researching this family from Australia and have just read the wonderful article about how the grave of William George ROBINS was found
    It was just a miracle that it was found at all and I wish to thank the people involved as it means so much to the family back home to know this story
    I am now trying to find the children Thelma and George but no luck as far

    thank you again most sincerely

  • Rosemary says:

    Thank you for an amazing report and for solving the mystery surrounding my great uncle. I was aware he had died “in the Solomons” but this solved so many questions.

  • William g robins says:

    Don’t know if you got my mail,but William g robins was my grandfather.I think I have a photo of his grave.can you laser this mail.who is Rosemary?Who is Betty?. Regards WR

  • William g robins says:

    Can you give me more information so I can contact the war graves dept.in Moresby?Ipresume I am speaking to David? WR

  • william g robins was my grandfather,I am the second son of George Theodore Robins
    his sister was Thelma White.

  • Rosemary Pollock says:

    My grandfther was Frederick John Robins. My father was Douglas Robins. Dad had brothers Frederick J, , Ronald (died in infancy), and Bruce.
    I have two brothers, John and Mark.
    I have quite a bit of informtion about the family and would like to swap informtion if you are interested.
    Perhps David could pass on to you my email.
    Learning about Wiliam George was a fascinating development and has encouraged me to find out much more bout the experiencess they endured in WW1.
    Thank you David – not only for your amazing work in locating Wiliam George’s grave but for putting long lost reltives in touch!
    Kind regards
    Rosie

  • I am the Betty mentioned above – not related to this family but was helping a family member (Rosemary) research her family tree
    This family is being discussed on our genealogy group

    http://australiansurnamesgroup.yuku.com

    if any family member is interested in reading it or joining the group (free)
    David has my contact email address

    Elizabeth

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