On the centenary of Passchendaele, we remember them.

Date
31 July 2017 07:00

Today we commemorate 100 years since the Battle of Passchendaele began. This battle, perhaps more than any other in the First World War, signifies the horrors and great human costs associated with major WWI battles.

Constant shelling churned the clay soil and smashed drainage systems. Within a few days, the heaviest rain for 30 years had turned the soil into a bog, producing mud that clogged up rifles and immobilised tanks. It eventually became so deep that men and horses drowned in it.

Battle of Passchendaele Nov 1917, men carry wounded soldiers through boggy land
Men carrying wounded soldiers through boggy battlefield at Passchendaele November 1917. Photo copyright of Library and Archives Canada reference number PA-002140 & MIKAN ID number 3397044

Over 80 of our blind veterans were injured during this battle. Godfrey Robinson was one of them.

From North Ferriby in Yorkshire, Godfrey served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He lost both eyes and received other injuries there in August 1917. For his bravery he was awarded the Military Cross.

He came to Blind Veterans UK the following year and learnt braille and typewriting at our Regent’s Park base. Before the war Godfrey had worked in his father’s egg-importation business. After completing his training Godfrey returned to this work.

He also become very involved in public life, initially as a member of Hull City Council and later as the city’s Sheriff.

Blind veteran Robinson (left) with Lord Ian Fraser (right)
Blind veteran Robinson (left) with our then Chairman Lord Ian Fraser (right)

During the Second World War he worked for the Ministry of Food. Godfrey remained very actively involved with our charity, including serving on our Council. He was also an important part of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, becoming its Chairman in 1952.

Godfrey enjoyed a happy family life and he and wife Margaret had five children. Godfrey died in 1961, and is commemorated in North Ferriby by a Leonard Cheshire home which bears his name.

Some 90,000 bodies were never identified and 42,000 never recovered from the Battle of Passchendaele. On the centenary of the battle, we remember them.