Robert was born in Didsbury, the second son of William and Maria. In 1901, when the national census was taken, the family was living at 99 Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey. Also at home were John's older brother, Ernest, and his two younger siblings, Clara and Joseph. Robert was working as a commercial clerk.
Later, he married Sarah Annie and they are believed to have lived at 212 Edgeley Road, Cheadle Heath.
On 1 December 1917, Robert and his mates took part in a successful attack on German positions on the St Quentin Ridge, near the French village of Gouzeaucourt. The Battalion's official report of the engagement gives full credit to the tanks which led the assault and indicates that infantry alone would not have been successful. Later in the day, Battalion was relieved back to billets. On the 4/5th, they were back in the trenches for 24 hours during which time Robert was one of six men wounded (probably by shellfire).
He will have received attention from the Battalion's medical officer, just behind the front line. He will then have been evacuated to either 21st or 48th Casualty Clearing Station at Manancourt. At this field hospital, military surgeons will have done all they could to save his life, but without success.