Robinson, Neville Arthur

Colonel Neville Arthur (Robbie) Robinson, CD, ADC
Colonel Neville Arthur (Robbie) Robinson, CD, ADC

Colonel Neville Arthur Robinson, CD, ADC was born in Hornchurch, England in 1924, son of Dr. Harold S. and Vera E. Robinson. He joined the British Army as a teenager and served in and after World War Two with the Parachute Regiment from 1941 to 1951 including combat in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Robinson was wounded in Tunisia in Battle of Tamera and in Sicily at Primosole Bridge.

After coming emigrating to Canada he served in the Canadian Army from 1952 to 1982, sixteen of those years with The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. Postwar tours and postings included Egypt, Palestine, Greece, France, Korea, Cyprus, and Belgium. Under his leadership as Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, the battalion won numerous awards, and many of his officers went on to distinguished careers, four of them becoming generals. He retired from the military in 1982 as Commander Vancouver District after 41 years of army service.

He also saw considerable service outside of the army:

  • Appointed Honorary Aide-De-Camp to the Governor General of Canada in 1980
  • Past President of the Royal United Services Institute
  • Past Commissioner of the Delta Police Board
  • Past member of the Delta Citizens Advisory Board
  • Member of and past director of the Beach Grove Golf Club
  • Member of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Association
  • Member of  The Parachute Regiment Association
  • Member of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association
  • Member of the 2nd Para (1940-45) Club
  • The National Defence Committee of the Federation of Military Institutes
  • Past member of the Board of Governors of the Outward Bound School
  • Member of the Dominion Institute Memory Project
  • Member of the Health Administrators Association of BC
  • Served as the Administrator of the Canadian Red Cross for BC and the Yukon.

He died on 25 August 2013.

Tributes

I only served once with Robbie Robinson – First Battalion at Calgary in the late 1950s. He was a Captain and the 2IC of our rifle company. During an annual summer concentration at Wainwright I will always remember his complete dedication to improving the knowledge of the junior officers and NCOs. No one took training more seriously – particularly tactical training. I can still recall standing in line for lunch with him as he continued to pepper me with questions about various tactical scenarios confronting a leading platoon in the advance to contact. He was an excellent role model and all who came under his guidance benefited greatly. He also had an excellent sense of humour. Later, during another summer concentration at CFB Wainwright when he was CO 2 QOR of C, he invited all the officers of 1 QOR of C to a dinner at their tented Officers’ Mess in the southeast corner of the training area. The vehicle park was some hundreds of metres away from the Mess. As we made our way single file to the Mess we were ambushed with rifle and machine gun fire, thunder flashes, artillery simulators and – best of all – mortars firing wet and very sticky spaghetti! They must have practiced this before our arrival as they had the range down to a T and we were covered with the stuff. The stains remained on our combat clothing for several washings! Great fun to start off a fun evening, building up the spirit of the Regimental officers.

Major General John Sharpe, CMM, CD, ex-The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, former Commanding Officer 1st Bn Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, former Commander of 1st Canadian Brigade Group and Canadian Forces Europe.

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I have known Robbie since 1955 when he returned from Korea and reported to the 1st battalion in Calgary. Our careers paralleled each other for many years of regimental and other duties. It was an honour to serve as his Operations Officer (having been “pulled” from D Company) during his term as Acting CO at Wainwright in 1964. We were a happy battalion having only four majors left in the unit for the summer and Robbie ran it well. I was his PMC at Wainwright when the incident described by John Sharpe (above) took place. My memory is slightly different as the organizer of the event in that we got the attendees from our sister battalion to sit for a photo (along with Robbie as decoy) so the range of the “spaghetti mortar” was known! Robbie was a tribute to his regiment, his battalion and his country throughout his service and after retiring. I had the opportunity, on behalf of the Rifles, to tell him this and to thank him, a day before his passing as his wife, Brenda, held the phone to his ear. A good friend and excellent soldier has left the square for well-deserved rest. We’ll miss him but remember him. “Thanks Robbie from all of us”.

Major General Herb Pitts, MC, CD, former Commanding Officer, 1st Bn The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, Regimental Commander, Canadian Airborne Regiment and Commandant, Canadian Forces.

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When I joined The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada in 1962, Robbie Robinson had already been in the army for almost 20 years, had served in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment since its formation in the early 1940s and had been under fire in North Africa (where he was wounded) as well as in Sicily and Italy. The Queen’s Own was fortunate that when he came to Canada in early 1950 he chose our regiment in which to continue his military career. He served for 30 more years in the Canadian Forces, commanding the 2nd Battalion The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada until 1968. He is remembered respectfully and fondly by those who served with him as having shaken the hand of every member of the battalion on parade on that fateful day in 1968 when, following an emotional parade at Calgary’s Currie Barracks, the 2nd battalion stood down for the last time, victim of government cutbacks. On behalf of all members of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, particularly those members of the regiment who proudly wear the wings and maroon beret identifying them as airborne-qualified riflemen, I offer our condolences to his family. He was a great soldier and comrade and we are proud and privileged to have known him and to have had him march in our ranks.

Col Paul F. Hughes, CD, former Honorary Colonel, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

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Whenever I think of Robbie I see a smiling face with a hint of mischief in the eyes and the most pleasant, gentlemanly demeanor. He was a brave soldier; loved by his troops and admired by his peers.

Col Richard (Dick) Cowling, CD, former Honorary LCol The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, former Commanding Officer 3rd Battalion PPCLI and Commander, Canadian Airborne Regiment.

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Colonel N.A. ‘Robbie’ Robinson, CO 2nd Battalion QOR ’66-’68, joined his fellow warriors in the sky at 2005hrs August 25 2013. If there are spirits for good in this world, their number is one stronger. “Salute.” 

LCol John Fotheringham, CD, former Commanding Officer, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

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As I read Colonel Robinson’s biography I was reminded why his generation has often been referred to as the “Greatest Generation”. His illustrious career spanned 41 years and he served in two wars, the Second World War and Korea. He was an outstanding leader who had a gift for nurturing talent and getting the best out of people. As a fellow paratrooper I can say with certainty that Colonel Robinson will be missed by many current and former members of that elite fraternity.

Colonel Lawrence N. (Larry) Stevenson, Honorary Colonel, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, former member The Canadian Airborne Regiment.

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I was very sorry to hear about the death of Col “Robbie” Robinson. Although I served at Currie Barracks for two years, 1965-67, initially as a company 2/IC and then OC recce platoon, my time with the battalion was very short. The 2nd battalion was selected for UN duty in Cyprus so thereafter I was attached to Brigade HQ. I do however have happy memories of my time with Robbie’s battalion amongst the “mozzies” at Wainwright and eating oysters flown in from English Bay whilst training at a TA camp somewhere in the Okanagan valley. Also I was very grateful to Robbie for giving me the last place on a parachute course subject to my getting all the others on the course “in shape”, and for letting his tame Brit accompany any company or platoon to experience different parts of Western Canada. I have happy memories of my time with 2 QOR of C and the many kind friends I made, not least of whom was CSM Olmstead who taught me how to survive in the snow and lent me all sorts of kit I am sure he shouldn’t, with which to go camping round Canada and the U.S. Robbie was a fine soldier who will be greatly mourned.

Captain Hamilton (Ham) Whitty, British Army exchange officer from The Buffs, an allied regiment of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada since 1914.

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Robbie was a great soldier, paratrooper and rifleman. He was an outstanding leader and many young officers were trained by this wonderful leader/warrior. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and fellow soldiers. On the Airborne side Robbie was a member of 1 Canadian Parachute Battalion Association and the Canadian Airborne Forces Association.

Wayne Dehnke, President Canadian Airborne Forces Association, Branch #8 – Bornewest

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