White, Robert

Last updated on 02-Jun-19

Robert White


648 Sgt. Robert White was born in Shere, Surrey, England in 1883 to Scottish born artist John White and Emma Homewood Saunders.


John White came to Melbourne as a boy with his parents in 1856.  He studied art at the National Gallery School under Eugene von Guerard.  John returned to Scotland and studied at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1873-79.  From 1877 his paintings were hung at the Royal Academy and most of the other major exhibition venues in London. John married Emma in 1877 at Shere and Robert was the fourth child.


Robert emigrated to Australia in 1908 and first appears on the electoral roll in 1914 as a carpenter at Rhyll but he was oystering with Henry Hastings (Harry) Heard when he enlisted with B Company 29thBattallion on 9th July 1915.  Harry enlisted in the same Battalion and they undertook initial training at Seymour and Broadmeadows.


The Battalion left on the Ascanius on 10th November 1915 and disembarked at Port Suez, Egypt where they undertook defensive duties along the Canal and did further training.  They departed Egypt on HMAT Tunisianon 16th June 1916 and arrived at Marseilles, France on the 23rdJune.


“The 29th Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19th July 1916. The nature of this battle was summed up by one 29th soldier: "the novelty of being a soldier wore off in about five seconds, it was like a bloody butcher's shop". Although it still spent periods in the front line, the 29th played no major offensive role for the rest of the year.


In early 1917, the German Army withdrew to the Hindenburg Line, allowing the British front to be advanced. The Germans, however, made selected stands to delay this advance and the 28th Battalion was involved in defeating a counter-attack at Beaumetz on 23rd March.”


Australian War Memorial website.


Robert was wounded in action at Beaumetz and rejoined the Battalion on 12th April.


“The battalion subsequently missed the heavy fighting to breach the Hindenburg Line during the second battle of Bullecourt as the 8th Brigade was deployed to protect the Division's flank.”


Robert was promoted to Sergeant on 9th June.  He undertook training, qualifying as an instructor at the Southern Command Bombing School and returned to the Battalion on 15th November 1917.


“Unlike some AIF battalions, the 29th had a relatively quiet time during the German Spring Offensive of 1918 as the 5th Division was in reserve for a lot of the time. When the Allies took to the offensive again, the 29th fought in a minor attack at Morlancourt on 29th July.”


Robert was wounded in action during the attack at Morlancourt on 29thJuly and had his left arm amputated at the Beaufort War Hospital.  He embarked for Australia on SS Ormondeon 1st August 1919.


After the war he became an Inspector of Works, first with the Country Roads Board then with the Public Works Department at Bendigo. 


Robert married Ivy Edith Daisy Lemmin 1920 and had two daughters.  He died of tuberculosis at home in Bendigo on 12th February 1928 and was buried in the Bendigo Cemetery.  The tuberculosis was probably contracted during the war.