Robert John Poole – Great War Soldier of the 16th Battalion, Rifle Brigade

This is one of a series of short biographies dedicated to the men of 16th Battalion, Rifle Brigade who served in the Great War.

My great grandfather (Edward Giltrap) also served in this Battalion and was fortunate enough to survive the war.

If anybody has any further information that they would like to add, please do contact Lorraine Johnson via this website or by email to


Robert was born in the St Pancras district of London in 1893, the youngest child of Arthur Poole and Frances (née Crouch).  George and Ruth had nine children, Roberts’ siblings were: Ada Elizabeth (born 1875), Albert Walter (born 1877), Emma Amelia (born 1879), Florence Susannah (born 1881), Maud Annie (born 1883), Jessie Mabel (born 1886), Arthur William (born 1888) and Agnes Mary (born 1891).

In and 1901 the family was living on Torriano Avenue and in 1911 they were at Brecknock Road, both addresses are in Kentish Town.  In 1911 Robert was working as a Grocer’s Shop Assistant and his father, Arthur, was working as a gardener.

I have not found any records showing when and where Robert enlisted for the army but on 20th September 1917, the date he was killed, Robert was a Corporal serving with ‘C’ Company, 16th Battalion, Rifle Brigade.  His Service Number was 721 but documents found to date are not consistent on whether the prefix for this should have been ‘R’ or ‘P’.

On 20th September 1917, 16th Battalion were in the Front Line Trench System in Battle Wood, to the South of Zillebeke; September 20th was the first day in the Battle of the Menin Road.

At ZERO hour the barrage opened and the Battalion moved forward but they came under machine gun fire almost immediately particularly from the left and right flanks.  The Battalion took their first objective in the first few minutes of the offensive but in proceeding to their second objective they came under further heavy machine gun fire and hand thrown bombs, including some phosphorus.  The Battalion also faced some incendiary bullets which set the clothing of several men on fire; the flames were extinguished by rolling the men who were hit in the mud.  They successfully took and held their second objective; in the process taking thirty-one prisoners who assisted in carrying Rifle Brigade wounded, with the captured German Medical Officer being utilised to render first aid.

Forty-five men of 16th Battalion Rifle Brigade were killed on that day, the vast majority of their bodies were never recovered or identified.  Robert was one of three Riflemen with a known grave at Tyne Cot Cemetery , with thirty-eight soldiers of the Battalion commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial; four other Riflemen are buried in other nearby cemeteries.  Robert was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

I was privileged to be able to pay my respects to Corporal Robert Poole on 18th April 2019.

Robert John Poole

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