Robert Selby Armitage GC GM (Direct Recipient)

b. 28/03/1905 Birling, Kent. d. 26/05/1982 Nettlebed, Oxfordshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 09-10/1940 England.

Robert Selby Armitage (1905-1982) was born on 28th March 1905 in Birling, Kent, the eldest son of the Reverend Philip and Elizabeth Christina Armitage (nee Marshall). He had three siblings: Phyllis, Philip Michael and Anthony Marshall. Soon after his birth, his father moved the family to The Vicarage, Nettlebed, near Henley in Thames, Oxfordshire. Due to his affluent upbringing, Robert was able to attend public school at Rugby in September 1918, where he boarded at Mitchell House, leaving in 1923.

Robert S Armitage

From Rugby, he gained a place at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he gained his Classical History Tripos in 1926. Robert decided to become a solicitor, and entered the Bar at Inner Temple in London. On the outbreak of war in September 1939, Robert enlisted in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and became involved in hazardous bomb disposal work. In May 1940, he was involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk.

In September and October 1940, Temporary Lieutenant Armitage disabled numerous land mines, accepting the great risks that accompanied this duty. One of the mines he had to deal with was hanging from a tree in Orpington, Kent, and could only be reached from a ladder which offered no chance of escape if it exploded. On another occasion he heard a clock ticking and was only 30 yards away when the bomb exploded. In spite of this narrow escape he was back at work the following day.

For these numerous actions, the London Gazette announced the award of the George Cross on 27th December 1940. He was the first direct naval recipient of the GC. He received his medal from King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 24th May 1941. This was not the end of his gallantry in the field of bomb disposal as due to his actions at Corton Sands, Suffolk whilst serving with HMS Vernon, he would be awarded the George Medal. He was presented with this medal on 21st November 1944.

Robert left the RNVR in 1946 with the final rank of Lieutenant Commander. Following the war, he returned to his work in the legal profession and also became a member of the London Stock Exchange. He married Frances Bland Tucker, and following his retirement from the law, he returned to his childhood and lived in Nettlebed, Oxfordshire.

On 26th May 1982, Robert passed away at home following a domestic incident. He was buried in St Bartholomew’s Churchyard, Nettlebed, Oxfordshire. His GC, GM, 1939-45 Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal were donated to the Imperial War Museum, and are shown on rotation in the Ashcroft Gallery.