b. 12/07/1849 Cullercoats, Northumberland. d. 30/10/1927 Cullercoats, Northumberland.
DATE OF EM ACTION: 01/11/1914 Whitby, North Yorkshire.
Robert was one of ten children born to Robert and Mary Elizabeth Smith (nee Lisle) on 12th July 1849 in Cullercoats, Northumberland. On the 15th May 1870, he married Jane Menzies at St Paul’s Church, Whitby, North Yorkshire, and they would go on to have eight children together. Robert became a lifeboatman off the Northumberland and Yorkshire coasts for over 50 years. In 1909, he was appointed Second Coxswain of the Tynemouth Lifeboat. The following year, he was advanced to Coxswain where he would be in position for throughout the Great War.
In 1913, he and Herbert Burton of the Royal Engineers, were awarded the RNLI Silver Medal for their gallantry in the service to the SS Dunelm of Sunderland, rescuing the men in a fearsome gale and sailing the lifeboat back to Blyth. On the 1st November 1914, whilst on the Henry Vernon lifeboat when he rescued 50 people from the stricken hospital ship Rohilla off the Whitby coast. For this action he was awarded the RNLI Gold Medal. The aforementioned Herbert Burton and Thomas Langlands also received the same award.
In 1924, he was one of eight RNLI Gold Medallists still alive for the Centenary and was received by King George V at Buckingham Palace. Whilst at the Palace, he was decorated with the EGM for his services to the RNLI. He had finally retired from the lifeboats four years previously, with his eyseight beginning to fail, and he was sadly recently widowed. He died on 30th October 1927, aged 78.
No official citation for the award of the OBE.
BURIAL LOCATION: ST PAUL’S CHURCHYARD, WHITBY, YORKSHIRE.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: UNKNOWN.