b. 11/04/1895 West Bromwich, Staffordshire, d. 23/09/1968 St Veep, Cornwall.
Robert Edwin “Bob” Phillips (1895-1968) was born at 12 Queen Street, Hill Top, West Bromwich, Staffordshire on 11th April 1895, a son and one of six children of Alfred Phillips. From the age of 5 he was educated at St James’ Elementary School, Hill Top, not far from the family home, and later at King Edward VI’s Grammar School, Aston, Birmingham from 1907-1911. He had gained a scholarship to the school and his family therefore did not have to pay his fees. The family lived at the same address until 1906 when they moved to a recently built house called “Holyhead House”, Hill Top. After leaving school in March 1911, Phillips entered the Civil Service as a boy recruit nine months later and worked as a tax surveyor for the Inland Revenue in Worcester. Over the next two years he also worked in Birmingham, Carmarthen and London.
Phillips enlisted in the Army on 17th March 1914 as a Private in the 1/15th Company of the London Regiment (Civil Service Corps of the London Regiment (Territorial)) and was called up on the outbreak of war. A few months later, on 3rd December, he was commissioned in the 9th (S) Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He arrived at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, on 6th October 1915 and remained there until wounded on 17th November six weeks later. After he had recovered he was invalided to Egypt.
On 16th February 1916, his Battalion embarked at Suez, arriving in Basra in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) on 28th February, and as part of Royal Warwickshires, 39th Brigade, 13th (Western) Division, he remained in the country for more than two years.
On 25th January 1917 near Kut, Mesopotamia, Lieutenant Phillips went to the assistance of his commanding officer (Edward Elers Delaval Henderson) who was lying in the open mortally wounded while leading a counter-attack. The lieutenant went out with a comrade and, under the most intense fire, they succeeded in bringing their commanding officer back to our lines.
He was promoted to Captain four days after the action at Kut, and later became Adjutant on 9th July 1917. On 13th June 1917, a few days after the publication of his VC citation in London Gazette, Aston Grammar Schools were given the day off in honour of the distinction gained by their former student. He served in Mesopotamia until May 1918, and arrived back at his parents’ home on 26th October 1918, and somehow escaped the usual public reception given to a new VC holder on their return home. He was on a month’s leave, his first for three years. However, he didn’t escape for long, and on 4th November, a meeting was organised to take place in West Bromwich Town Hall, where he was introduced to a very large audience by the Mayor, who was presenting medals to fifty local men who were serving in the war. Phillips, being the only VC holder in West Bromwich, was presented with his Borough Medal first. He was given a warm reception.
On 9th November (two days before the Armistice), he attended his investiture at Buckingham Palace where King George V presented him with his VC. On the 13th he attended a presentation ceremony at his old school, King Edward VI’s in Aston, and he was presented with a silver casket. Phillips requested that the boys should be given the rest of the day off as a holiday!
When Captain Phillips left the Army in 1919, he returned to his job with the Inland Revenue, and during his working life served as assistant commissioner of taxes in Britain, Malaya and Swaziland. On 19th May 1920 he married Beatrice Amy Brockhouse at St James’s Church, Hill Top. She was a 24 year old domestic science teacher, and they lived in Barnt Green. They went on to have two children, Michael and Rachel.
When a statue was unveiled to Field Marshal Earl Haig in Whitehall in November 1937, Phillips was one of four VCs from the Birmingham District who was a member of the VC Guard of Honour. In 1956, he took part in the VC Centenary Celebrations in Hyde Park, and in 1960, he retired from the Civil Service. He retired to Cornwall with his second wife, Margaret Mary Ford. Six years later, he attended the VC memorial service at St Martin in the Fields on 13th July 1966 and a special dinner the following day.
Two years later, at the age of 73, he died in hospital on 23rd September 1968 at St Veep, near Lostwithiel, Cornwall, and was buried in St Veep Parish Churchyard. In his will he left £3,452 and presented his decorations to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment Museum, St John’s House, Warwick. In addition to his VC, there was his 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, King George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and Knight, Legion D’Honneur (5th Class).
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL WARWICKSHIRE REGIMENT MUSEUM, WARWICK.
BURIAL PLACE: ST CYRUS & ST JULIETTA CHURCHYARD, ST VEEP, CORNWALL.
Kevin Brazier – Image of Phillips VC’s grave in St Veep, Cornwall.
Paul Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Images of the Phillips VC Stone at Dartmouth Park, West Bromwich and its accompanying programme.