War mem­o­ries still vivid

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRIS DANDO

It will take more than bad legs and cold weather to keep Rob­bie Robin­son away from his lo­cal Re­turned and Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion to­mor­row – he spent four years in a Pol­ish coal mine, af­ter all.

The 93- year- old Tawa res­i­dent’s mem­ory is not what it used to be but the for­mer sol­dier can still re­trieve mo­ments from those life- chang­ing war years sharply. He re­calls the re­cruit­ing sergeant not mak­ing the sign­ing-up process very easy in 1939.

‘‘ He said ‘ here comes more can­non fod­der’ and one bloke in the line be­fore me got the wind up and ran out. I was scared but I felt I had to [join up]. None of us knew what we were in for.’’

A mem­ber of the 19th Welling­ton Bat­tal­ion, Mr Robin­son was cap­tured by the Ger­mans on Crete in May, 1941, in one of the most dra­matic bat­tles New Zealand sol­diers took part in. He wit­nessed ter­ri­ble acts as the Al­lied sol­diers fought to re­pel the Ger­man air­borne as­sault.

Sent to a work camp in Knurow, south­ern Poland, Mr Robin­son said the con­di­tions in the mine were dread­ful and the ra­tions barely enough to live on.

In true Kiwi fash­ion, he got up to no good.

‘‘I didn’t ex­actly stop the pro­duc­tion [of coal] but I broke stuff, I did a bit of sab­o­tage. I was told I was be­ing watched and I should be care­ful, but I kept on do­ing what I could.’’

One night he swiped a cooked chicken from the of­fi­cers’ quar­ters, hid­ing it so en­listed men could have a feast. By war’s end, Mr Robin­son weighed 41 kilo­grams. He de­mobbed from the army in 1946, mar­ried wife Dorothy in 1951 and they raised a fam­ily in Tawa.

Tak­ing pride of place on their liv­ing room wall is a print of a paint­ing by New Zealand Army war artist Cap­tain Matt Gauldie.

Mr Robin­son was stand­ing in Lambton Quay dur­ing the pa­rade for the re­turn of the Un­known War­rior in 2004 when he was pho­tographed.

Rob­bie’s legacy: The well-lined face of Rob­bie Robin­son has been im­mor­talised by New Zealand’s of­fi­cial war artist Matt Gauldie. Cap­tain Gauldie

said he could see the ‘‘many con­flict­ing emo­tions’’ and ‘‘the ter­ri­ble cost of war’’on Mr Robin­son’s face when he pho­tographed him.

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