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Home - Remembrance & Memorials - Local Graves & Memorials - Harrow Weald (All Saints)

Introduction

The word Weald is Old English in origin, meaning woodland. It was recorded as waldis in 1303 and welde in 1382, but the name Harrow Weald is not recorded until 1553. It was then part of the great Forest of Middlesex.

The south of the area is a suburban development with houses, schools, small shops, supermarkets and pubs (notably the Weald Stone Inn, formerly the Red Lion). The area expanded around the First World War and continued to grow fast: the population grew from 1,517 in 1901 to 10,923 in 1931.

Ancient woodland on high ground fills most of the northern part of Harrow Weald on the border of Greater London with Hertfordshire. The area is one of the highest in Greater London; the highest point in Middlesex is near the woods at 502 feet (153 m).

The eastern part of the woods merges into those of Stanmore and encompasses Bentley Priory.

Along the southern edge of the high ground runs the road Old Redding and a car park here gives spectacular views over much of London. The western part of the woodland forms Harrow Weald Common.

Other smaller woods surround the Grim's Dyke Hotel, the former country house of W. S. Gilbert. The house is named after the nearby earthwork Grim's Ditch, a 3-mile long ancient monument; that runs from Harrow Weald to Pinner Green. The monument remains largely mysterious but is known to have been named in the Saxon era.

Entrance to All Saints (Harrow Weald) Church (Stephen Stratford 2015).

Further along the road, with All Saints church behind you, the church's cemetery extension is located on the right-hand side of the road. The extension area is located between the area formed by Uxbridge and Elms Roads. The grave of William Leefe Robinson, VC, is located by the hedge at the Elms Road side of the graveyard extension.

William Leefe Robinson, VC

William Leefe Robinson, VC, All Saints Churchyard Extension (Stephen Stratford 2015).

William Leefe Robinson was born in India  on 14 July 1895, the youngest son of Horace Robinson and Elizabeth Leefe. Raised on his parents' coffee estate, Kaima Betta Estate, at Pollibetta, in Coorg, he attended Bishop Cotton Boys' School, Bangalore, and the Dragon School, Oxford, before following his elder brother Harold to St. Bees School, Cumberland in September, 1909. While there he succeeded his brother as Head of Eaglesfield House in 1913, played in the rugby 1st XV and became a sergeant in the school Officer Training Corps.

On the night of 2/3 September 1916 over Cuffley, Hertfordshire, Lieutenant Robinson, flying a converted BE2c night-fighter No. 2693, sighted a German airship. Robinson made an attack at an altitude of 11,500 ft (3,500 m) approaching from below and closing to within 500 ft (150 m) raking the airship with machine-gun fire. As he was preparing for another attack, the airship burst into flames and crashed in a field behind the Plough Inn at Cuffley, killing the crew.This action was witnessed by thousands of Londoners who, as they saw the airship descend in flames, cheered and sang the national anthem, one even played the bagpipes.

The propaganda value of this success was enormous to the British Government, as it indicated that the German airship threat could be countered. When Robinson was awarded the VC by King George V at Windsor Castle, huge crowds of admirers and onlookers were in attendance. Robinson was also awarded £3,500 in prize money and a silver cup donated by the people of Hornchurch. He was the first person to be awarded the VC for action in the UK.

In April 1917, Robinson was posted to France as a Flight Commander with No. 48 Squadron, flying the then new Bristol F.2 Fighter. On the first patrol over the lines, Robinson's formation of six aircraft encountered the Albatros D.III fighters of Jasta 11, led by Manfred von Richthofen, and four were shot down. Robinson, flying Bristol F2A A3337, was shot down by Vizefeldwebel Sebastian Festner, and was wounded and captured.

He was not well treated by the Germans. He made several attempts to escape but all failed, his health was badly affected during his time as a prisoner. He was imprisoned at Zorndorf and Holzminden, being kept in solitary confinement at the latter camp for his escape attempts.

Robinson died on 31 December 1918 at Lavender Cottage, Harrow Weald, the home of his sister Katherine Leefe Heyking (wife of Baron Heyking), from the effects of the Spanish flu pandemic. On, 3 January 1919, William Leefe Robinson was buried at All Saints' Churchyard Extension in Harrow Weald. Probate was granted to his sister, with his effects valued at £2346 9s.

A memorial to him was erected near the spot where the airship crashed, at Cuffley, Hertfordshire.

There are also memorials to William Leefe Robinson at

  • St. Bees School; one of three First World War VCs awared to Old St. Beghians.
  • The RAF Church, St. Clement Dane's church in London, list William Leefe Robinson on the RAF memorial.
  • William Leefe Robinson is listed on a plaque in Mercara Anglican Church, Coorg District, Southern India.

The medals awarded to William Leefe Robinson, VC, form part of the Lord Ashcroft Collection, which is displayed in the Imperial War Museum (Lambeth).

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