b. 19/06/1889 Brighton, Australia. d. 04/10/1957 Melbourne, Australia.
Robert Cuthbert Grieve (1889-1957) was born on 19th June 1889 at Brighton, Victoria, Australia. His father, John, was a clerk before forming the firm Connibere, Grieve and Connibere, soft goods merchants in 1889. He married Annie Deas nee Brown at Fitzroy, Victoria in 1885. Robert had two brothers, Frank and John.
Robert was educated at Caulfield Grammar School, Melbourne and Wesley College, Melbourne. He was a keen footballer and cricketer. He worked as an interstate commercial traveller in soft goods and gave his occupation as warehouseman when he enlisted in the AIF on 16th June 1915. He was posted to the Depot on 25th June and to Q Company, 5th Depot Battalion, Broadmeadows from October 1915 to January 1916. He was commissioned from the Officers’ Training School on 17th January 1916. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st May 1916.
He left Melbourne on 30th May 1916 on HMAT Persic, disembarking at Plymouth on 25th July. He was assigned to A Company, 37th Battalion from 16th June. The unit moved to Larkhill Camp on Salisbury Plain for training. He was seconded to 10th Light Mortar Battery at No 5 Camp, Larkhill on 5th August and went to France on 22nd November from Southampton. He was appointed Acting Captain to command A Company in February 1917 and promoted to Captain on 19th April.
On 7th June 1917, at Messines in Belgium, during an attack on an enemy position, and after his company had suffered heavy losses, he located two hostile machine guns. Under heavy continuous fire, he succeeded in bombing and killing the two gun crews, then reorganized the remainder of his company and gained the original objective. He was then severely wounded in the shoulder by a sniper’s bullet.
Exceptionally, as there were no officers left in the company, Robert’s VC recommendation came from other ranks’ eyewitness reports. The shoulder wound was in fact a fractured scapula, and he was admitted to 9th Australian Field Ambulance and 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station on 8th June and 8th General Hospital, Rouen on 10th June. He was evacuated to England and heard about his award of the VC whilst recuperating at the 5th Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Welwyn. He received his VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 20th October 1917.
Robert returned to France on 24th October and joined II ANZAC Reinforcement Camp on 26th October, 3rd Australian Division Base Depot on the 27th and returned to 37th Battalion on the 29th. In January 1918, he was admitted to hospital with acute trench nephritis and double pneumonia. While at the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station he was nursed by his future wife. He was moved to 5th British Red Cross Hospital at Wimereux on 26th February and evacuated to England aboard HS Cambria on 10th March and admitted to 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth. His condition as so severe that he was returned to Australia, arriving on 25th May. He was then transferred to the Reserve of Officers as honorary captain from 19th April 1917 and Captain on 1st October 1920.
Robert founded the soft goods firm of Grieve, Gardener and Co in Flinders Lane, Melbourne in 1919 and remained its managing director until his death in 1957. On 7th August 1918 he married May “Mabel” Isabel Bowman at Scots Church, Sydney. There were no children. May was a nurse at Marrickville Cottage Hospital, Sydney and was also head nurse for four months at Parkes District Hospital and matron at Tumut Hospital for seven months. She was also a nurse in the Australian Army Nursing Service from April 1915. It was whilst she was serving at the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station that she met Robert.
Robert was at the ANZAC Commemoration Service on 25th April 1927 at the Exhibition Building, Melbourne in the presence of the Duke of York. Sadly, May died in 1929 during a trip to London. Robert was appointed to the Unattached List on 1st April 1939 on the strength of the Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services at Army HQ as Honorary Captain. He served with A Company, 4th Victorian Battalion of the Volunteer Defence Corps from June 1940. He was mobilised in March 1942 for part time duty. He was discharged in 1944. He returned to the Retired List in 1945.
During a visit to Heidelberg Hospital, Melbourne in February 1954 the Queen spotted Robert in the crowd and went over for a chat. Robert collapsed from cardiac failure and died in his office in Melbourne on 4th October 1957. He was buried in the Presbyterian Section of the Springvale Cemetery, Melbourne. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. He bequeathed his VC to Wesley College, Melbourne where it was held from 1959. In 2003 it was presented on permanent loan to the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SHRINE OF REMEMBRANCE, MELBOURNE.
BURIAL PLACE: SPRINGVALE CEMETERY, SPRINGVALE, AUSTRALIA. PRESBYTERIAN SECTION
Nigel Earnshaw – Image of the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne.