Written by Craig Wharton.
Hitting the auction
During the viewing pre-auction all the prospective bidders, dealers and collectors, had their microscopes out minutely examining the items that interested them. Biding my time I finally got to examine the item of interest to me. The assistant handed me the holstered Luger and must have been taken slightly aback when I handed the Luger back to him and said, “The holster is the most important bit”. I could see at a glance that the Luger was in excellent condition.
Close examination of the inscribed holster flap revealed what I had suspected. The handwritten initials were actually ‘JG’ and not ‘JC’. A simple typo but my research paid off. Now I was excited.
George was obviously quite proud of his acquisition and he had the presence of mind to record this information on the flap for posterity. It says, “Mont St Quentin, Sgt. J.G. Robinson, 23Bttn. 1/9/1918”. There was another date but due to rubbing against the pistol it is no longer readable.
All serial numbers are matching and the pistol is in very good to excellent condition. In fact when some old grease was removed and the barrel swiped clean it appears the Luger had hardly ever been used. Perhaps our German never got the chance.
The Luger's original owner
This practice of taking something from a person you had personally killed is something I will not try to psychoanalyse here but sufficient evidence suggests it is a common practice in wartime. I know it is. My grandfather did it on the Somme.
A brave Australian soldier
George Robinson was born near Kyabram in Victoria. His attestation papers (of which there are two on file), show him attesting on 20 July 1915 at Melbourne. He was 5’8.5” tall, weight 10lb 3oz; had a chest expansion of 33-35”, and was of fair complexion with brown eyes and dark brown hair. He gave his age as 21 years and eight months old. No previous military service.
What happened between there and his next attestation on 6 January 1916 at Seymour camp is not known, but he is now 22 years and three months old. He is now 5’9”and 10lb 10 oz and chest 35-37” A small chest expansion could get a man rejected for service in 1915 so that may be the reason.
George’s occupation was listed as Farmer. He was single. His next of kin was his father William Robinson, Deakin Post Office, Tongala, Victoria. His religion was Methodist. He joined the 10th reinforcements to the 23rd Battalion at Broadmeadows Camp just outside Melbourne where he became 4178 Private JG Robinson. After just two months training in how to be a soldier he embarked at Melbourne on HMAT Wiltshire (A-18) on 7.3.16. His only “crime” was committed on 30 March 1916 while at sea. He absented himself from a route march around the ship till 8pm that evening. He probably couldn’t see the sense in marching around in circles. He was awarded eight days forfeiture of pay and seven days confined to barracks.
Four Military Medals were awarded to the 23rd Battalion for this action - all to Lewis gunners. On page 112 of Ron Austin’s book Forward Undeterred he quotes, “if it were not for the gallant efforts of C.S.M. John Cox and Lewis gunners such as Lance Corporals Patrick Fitzgerald, Thomas Heath, Henry Pitts and Private George Robinson throughout the morning, the withdrawal would have resulted in even heavier casualties”.
George’s recommendation for the MM (recommended 24 March 1917), and signed off by Gellibrand states:
On the 20th of March, under very heavy rifle and M.G. fire, he took his machine gun into position and succeeded in preventing an enemy M.G. from being bought into action. Later in the same action he, at great personal risk, got into position and scattered an enemy bombing party.
We can see George was a very proficient Lewis gunner who exposed himself to extreme danger in order to protect his mates which is in the highest traditions of the Australian Army. Obviously his talents did not go unnoticed nor unrewarded and he was promoted to Sergeant on 17 August 1917, and granted 14 days leave. It was the only leave he got before he returned home to Australia in 1919.
The end of the War for 'JG'
George’s medal entitlement of the British War Medal and Victory Medal were sent to him in Rushworth Rd, Kyabram in 1923. He was also sent the GRI badge in 1926 which would suggest he was suffering from a war related illness. This is also known variously as The Silver Wound Badge, Services Rendered Badge and other titles, and was awarded to men incapacitated due to their service.
George died on 12 November 1949 aged 55, ironically the day after Remembrance Day.