No.1728 – Private Robert George Coombs – 11th Battalion AIF
Robert George Coombs was born in London England in 1876 to Edwin and Eliza Coombs. He went to Boarding School at Leddington England and after leaving joined the Army when he served with the Middlesex Regiment. He served for a year in the Boer War in South Africa before he was invalided home with enteric fever. After returning to the UK he left the Army and took up work as a gardener.
He had married Alice Coombs and had two children, Robert born in 1901 and Cecil in 1906.
In 1912 the Coombs family moved to Western Australia, where they took up residence in George Street South Fremantle, and later Central Ave Beaconsfield.
Robert was 39 years old when he went to the recruitment office in Perth on 13 January 1915 to enlist in the AIF. He was passed as fit with the medical examiner finding him to be 5 feet 9 ¼ inches in height; weight of 139 lbs; chest measurement of 34-36 inches; fresh complexion; blue eyes and grey hair. His religious denomination was CofE.
After a month in the Depot Company, Robert was allotted to the 4th Reinforcements of the 11th Battalion AIF on 16 February 1915. This group trained in WA until 19 April 1915 when they embarked from Fremantle Harbour aboard the HMAT Argyllshire.
They arrived in Egypt in mid-May though they only spent a short time in camp in Egypt as they were soon embarked at Alexandria for Gallipoli. Robert and his reinforcement group arrived at Gallipoli on the 4th June 1915 and he was immediately allotted to B Company.
Robert served with the 11th through June and July, taking part in various actions. On 1 August 1915 as a prelude to the 1st Brigade’s assault at Lone Pine, the 11th Battalion were tasked with the capture of a Turkish position which was later to be known as Leane’s Trench. The men of the 11th successfully captured the post and held it against furious Turkish counter attacks.
Unfortunately during the initial assault Robert was killed in action. Robert’s body was recovered and along with the other men killed in this assault, was buried in Shell Green Cemetery. Robert was buried in Plot II.G.64 with a service given by Reverend Robinson.
After his death, his two sons, Cecil and Robert were allotted a pension of 20/- per fortnight. However young Robert’s was cancelled a few years later as he died on 1 January 1920 aged just 19, a victim of the influenza outbreak. Cecil Coombs went on to served in the Royal Australian Air Force in World War Two and died in 1986.
Many thanks to Andrew Pittaway for writing and sharing this story.