This is incorrect. He was in fact taken prisoner by the Germans in April 1917, and after several attempts to escape he was kept in very harsh conditions and only returned from captivity on December 14, 1918.
In his book The Tunnellers of Holzminden, HG Durnford MC, who was a fellow prisoner with him, attributes Leefe-Robinson’s appalling physical deterioration to the adverse treatment he was singled out for by his German captors, which he described as “outrageous”.
In such poor health the VC winner was certainly too weak to fight the influenza and succumbed to it a few days later on December 31 that year. I thought that you would appreciate knowing this hero’s true fate.
Grange Over Sands, Cumbria
ATG note: thanks for pointing that out. According to the Imperial War Museum, Capt William Leefe Robinson was embarrassed by the attention after winning the VC and asked to go on active service in France. It adds: “On his first patrol, April 5, 1917, he and his men were surrounded by German aircraft led by Manfred von Richthofen, the ‘Red Baron’.
“They were all shot down and Robinson was taken prisoner. He was held in three camps for the rest of the war. As the famous ‘Zeppelin destroyer’ he was badly treated and spent months in solitary confinement. He made several attempts to escape but his health suffered and he became very weak.”
His VC can be seen in Lord Ashcroft’s gallery at the museum.
HMS Curacoa casualties
MADAM – Re: your article on the plans relating to the liner Queen Mary (Militaria & medals section, ATG No 2485).
The actual amount of officers and men lost from the HMS Curacoa was 337, not 239. These figures come from the Naval Casualty Files, released from the National Archive in 2013, so I’ve read (hopefully correct).
A very interesting article, and thank goodness the plans didn’t end up on a bonfire as was the plan if not sold at a boot fair.