Robert and his older siblings, Hugh and Norah, were born in Whitehaven. Their parents, Hugh and Eleanor, and the children moved to Manchester in the mid 1890s and took up residence at 61 Wembury Street, Harpurhey, where Jessie and Isabella were born. Hugh, senior, died in 1907 and, shortly after, the family moved to Reddish where they are known to have lived at 22 Carna Road.
Robert worked locally at the cotton mill of the Broadstone Spinning Ltd on Broadstone Road until he enlisted into the army on 1 June 1915. He joined the seventh of the "Pals Battalions" which had been formed the previous autumn and was one of a number of new recruits who replaced men deemed unfit for the rigours of the War. He was assigned to No. 17 Platoon in the recently formed "E" Company. Some details of their recruitment and training are here.
He will have gone overseas with the Battalion in November 1915 and was reported to have been wounded on two occasions and once "mentioned in despatches". At the end of October 1917, Robert and his comrades were transferred from the trenches around the Belgian town of Ypres to the Italian front, where they supported the local forces against the Austrian army.
Robert died of wounds he had received in battle. It is not known exactly when he was injured but it will have sometime in the few days prior to his death during the Battle of Vittorio Veneto. The plan was for British and Italian forces to cross the River Piave which flows north of Venice, cutting off the Austrian Army on the Veneto Plain from larger forces in the mountains.
The Regimental Archives holds an unpublished history of the Battalion which now takes up the story. "The Piave was reconnoitred in the evening of the 25th. The following day was misty but cleared later and there was considerable artillery activity and gas shelling. The Battalion moved forward to the attack, crossed the Piave and took up assembly positions. After an artillery duel during the night, the Battalion in the early hours of the 27th moved forward across the Grave di Papadopoli. It was received with strong machine gun and trench mortar resistance but still pushed forward and carried its objective, together with numerous prisoners, machine guns and field guns. An attempted counter-attack on the 28th was frustrated and a further position captured. The 2nd Queens relieved at dusk and the Manchesters withdrew to Divisional Reserve. On the 29th, however, the Battalion was ordered forward again to protect the Brigade flanks. Subsequently, the Battalion formed flank guard to the 2nd Queens by attacking and capturing the bank of the River Monticano. This position was held throughout the next day."