Robert Grierson Combe (1880–1917) was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. He immigrated to Canada after completing his studies and apprenticeship to become a druggist in Aberdeen and London, England. He enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the 53rd Battalion on April 1, 1915, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Paperwork in his service file also indicates attachments with the 30th, 32nd and 11th Reserve Battalions. He was transferred to the 27th Battalion when posted to duty in France in March 1916. On May 3, 1917, at Acheville, near Vimy Ridge, France, Combe and his company were engaged in active combat. He valiantly led his men toward the enemy through an intense artillery barrage, charging their positions and using grenades to push them back. He was killed in action by an enemy sniper during the rush. Combe was awarded the Victoria Cross for his acts of bravery on that day.
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: August 5, 1880 (Aberdeen, Scotland)
Date of Attestation: April 1, 1915 (Prince Albert, Saskatchewan)
Age at Enlistment: 34 years, 11 months old
Prior Military Service: One year with the 1st V.B. Royal Fusiliers, and one year with the 16th Light Horse
Height: 5 feet, 10 inches
Weight: 160 pounds
Description: Fresh complexion, brown eyes, black hair. Presbyterian.
Home Address: Moosomin, Saskatchewan
Next of Kin: Wife, Mrs. Jean Traquair Donald Combe, living at Moosomin, Saskatchewan
Theatre of War: France
Casualties / Medical History
- June 14, 1916 – Combe is admitted to No. 14 General Hospital, in Wimereux, France, where he is treated for lumbago for 10 days.
- June 29 to July 18, 1916 – He spends another 20 days receiving treatment for rheumatism and lumbago at Miss Pollock’s Hospital, 50 Weymouth St. “As progress was slow was sent to Bath for further treatment.”
- August 18, 1916 – Combe completes his treatment at Bath, England. Proceedings of a Medical Board grant him three weeks’ leave in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, for rheumatism and lumbago caused by his service, and exposure to the elements.
- September 8, 1916 – The Medical Board determines “This officer is now much improved but not fit for full duty.” He is deemed fit for service at home (11th Reserve Battalion at Shorncliffe) but will need another month before he is ready for general service.
- December 19, 1916 – A medical board at Shorncliffe finds “This Officer still suffers pain in his back and we feel he should not be exposed to cold and wet.”
- March 19, 1917 – The Medical Board at Shorncliffe concurs “This officer has now recovered.”
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- July 19, 1915 – In his Will, Combe bequeaths his estate to his wife, Jean Combe.
- May 3, 1917 – Combe is killed in action in the field in France. He is awarded the Victoria Cross.
The London Gazette
The London Gazette June 26, 1917, Supplement 30154, Page 6381
“Lt. Robert Grierson Combe, late Can. Inf. Bn. – For most conspicuous bravery and example.
He steadied his Company under intense fire, and led them through the enemy barrage, reaching the objective with only five men.
With great coolness and courage Lt. Combe proceeded to bomb the enemy, and inflicted heavy casualties. He collected small groups of men and succeeded in capturing the Company objective, together with eighty prisoners.
He repeatedly charged the enemy, driving them before him, and, whilst personally leading his bombers, was killed by an enemy sniper. His conduct inspired all ranks, and it was entirely due to his magnificent courage that the position was carried, secured and held.”
Military Medals, Honours and Awards (1812–1969)
No records located.