Robert Arnold Robinson (1924-1994)
Nat Map Cartographer 1948-1985
Prepared by Laurie McLean August 2019
Bob Robinson in Canberra circa 1980s.
Image supplied by John Payne.
Bob Robinson devoted most of his working life to the post-World War II mapping of Australia. In 1948 at the age of 23 years he joined the then National Mapping Section of the Department of the Interior in Melbourne as a photogrammetric draftsman. Bob moved to Canberra in 1968 as an Assistant Chief Drafting Officer. In 1985 Bob retired at age 60 years as the Division of National Mapping’s Chief Executive Officer, Cartography after 37 years of service with Nat Map. After retirement Bob continued to live in Canberra until his sudden death in 1994 at age 69 years.
Prior to Nat Map, Bob had worked as draftsman with the Survey Office of the Lands Department in Brisbane between 1940 and 1948. He was with the Survey Office from age 15 years to age 23 years. However, Bob had a 3-year break during that period to serve with the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. In 1945 Bob saw active service as a Wireless Operator (Air) flying over the Mediterranean as a radar operator in Vickers Wellington bombers with No 458 Squadron RAAF. He was discharged as an RAAF Warrant Officer at the age of 21 years in January 1946.
Robert Arnold Robinson was variously known in Nat Map as Bob, Robbie or even Bob Robbie. During his time in the Melbourne Rialto office Bob was also known as Red Robbie. Apparently this had as much to do with his sometimes fiery disposition as it did to the colour of his hair. Also at times at work Robbie apparently presented quite different faces. To many he was affable and at times even fun-loving. But others found Bob to be grumpy, at least initially but once people had got to know him better they found that Bob was really okay. To many Nat Mappers Robbie mellowed a lot after his retirement in 1985. Robbie enjoyed a drink or more on social occassions. He was always a heavy smoker who also liked an occasional cigar or cheroot; this was during the time when smoking was permitted in the workplace.
Early life-about Bob Robbie’s parents
Robert Arnold Robinson was born and grew up in Cairns, North Queensland. He was born on 26 November 1924, the only son of Robert James Robinson and his wife Agnes Louisa May Robinson née Arnold. Robbie’s parents Robert James Robinson and Agnes Louisa May Arnold married in Queensland in 1921. Apart from this marriage registration that listed the given names Robert James, Robbie’s father used only the given name Robert in records discovered during research for this article.
Robbie’s mother Agnes Louisa May Arnold was born in Queensland on 4 May 1900 to Thomas Edward Arnold and his wife Mary née George who had married in Queensland on 2 January 1890.
More about Bob Robbie’s father
Robbie’s father, Robert Robinson (senior) was born in Brisbane on 1 February 1893. In 1908 at around 15 years of age Robert (senior) became an apprentice jeweller with D MacKay and Company, initially in Brisbane. That company operated as watchmakers and jewellers from retail premises in Adelaide Street Brisbane and also from the mid-1880s in Abbott Street Cairns.
D Mackay and Company were said to have been the first jewellers in Cairns. Around 1926 the company shifted to new retail premises in Shields Street Cairns. From around the mid-1920s the company also operated in Innisfail about 70 kilometres south of Cairns.
Robert Robinson (senior) was a jeweller for most of his working life; operating in Brisbane and later in Cairns prior to World War I. He had two breaks from his profession to serve with the Australian Army in both World War I and in World War II; this Army service is discussed in more detail below. Robert Robinson (senior) returned to D MacKay and Company in Cairns after his World War I service. He remained there until re-enlisting during World War II. After the Second World War Robert Robinson (senior) worked as a jeweller in Brisbane.
Electoral roll entries for Robbie’s parents
Historic Australian Electoral Commission electoral rolls (ie rolls between 1903 and 1980) are available for public search. From 1902 until 1973 the minimum voting age in Australia for most males and females was 21 years. (Initially, however, Aboriginal natives of Australia and people from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands were not allowed to vote.) On reaching 21 years of age enfranchised people were required to enrol to vote and were thus recorded on electoral rolls. Nevertheless electoral roll entries record Robert Robinson (senior) as residing in Cairns between 1913 and 1943 (ie apparently he first enrolled to vote at age 20 years).
From electoral roll entries for 1913 and 1917 Robert Robinson (senior) resided in Abbott Street Cairns. On electoral roll entries for 1925, 1930, 1936 and 1943 Robert Robinson (senior) and Agnes Louisa May Robinson were recorded as residing at 201 Bunda Street (on the corner of Grimshaw Street) Cairns. On these electoral rolls their respective occupations were jeweller and home duties.
According to the World War II service record for Robert Robinson [senior], in February 1942 he and his wife resided at Blakeney Street Highgate Hill and in 1945 they resided at 141 Cornwall Street Annerley. Planning for the evacuation of residents from vulnerable districts of northern Australia had commenced in July 1941 and by early 1942 evacuation of women and children from areas in north Queensland was an immediate concern. Cairns, then with some 15 700 residents, had over 5 000 civillians voluntarily evactuated including about 80 per cent of the children. It was said to have become an empty outpost (Pearce, 2009).
On electoral rolls for 1949, 1963, 1968, and 1972 Robert Robinson (senior) and Agnes Louisa May Robinson were recorded as residing at 3 Rosecliffe Street Highgate Hill (an inner suburb on the Brisbane River about three kilometres south of the Brisbane GPO). Again, on these electoral rolls their respective occupations were jeweller and home duties.
In researching for this article, death notices were not discovered for Robbie’s parents Robert Robinson (senior) and Agnes Louisa May Robinson. However, Robert Robinson (senior) was not listed on electoral rolls after 1972. On an electoral roll for 1977 Agnes Louisa May Robinson alone was recorded as residing at 3 Rosecliffe Street Highgate Hill and being occupied in home duties. On an electoral roll for 1980 Agnes Louisa May Robinson was recorded as residing at 135 Nerang Street Southport and being occupied in home duties. (Southport is on the Gold Coast about 70 kilometres south of Brisbane. As stated earlier, electoral rolls after 1980 are not available for public search.)
Bob Robbie’s father’s World War I service
As previously mentioned, Bob Robbie’s father Robert Robinson (senior) served with the Australian Army in both World War I and World War II. At age 24 years Robert Robinson (senior) enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Cairns on 9 February 1915; Service Number 1566. He served in the ranks at Gallipoli and in France.
Robert Robinson (senior) embarked at Brisbane on His Majesty’s Australian Transport A60 Aeneas on 7 July 1915 as part of the First Reinforcements for the 25th Infantry Battalion. In Egypt on 4 September 1915, he again embarked at Alexandria for the Gallipoli Peninsula. Here he served with the 25th Infantry Battalion as part of the 7th Australian Infantry Brigade in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. The Battalion was mainly engaged in defensive operations for a few months prior to the ANZAC evacuation in December 1916. Robinson returned to Alexandria on HMAT A20 Hororata on 9 January 1916. On 4 March 1916 he was transferred to the 7th Brigade machine gun section and on 14 March 1916 he joined the British Expeditionary Force at Alexandria. Robinson disembarked at Marseille in southern France on 23 March 1916.
On 17 October 1916 while serving in France with the 5th Machine Gun Company Robert Robinson (senior) was wounded in action. He suffered a gunshot wound to his left shoulder and a broken collar bone. At that time the Company was operating around the village of Estaires near the Hindenburg Line about 80 kilometres east of the English Channel port of Boulogne.
On 24 October 1916 Robinson was evacuated from Boulogne on the Hospital Ship St Andrew for England. He was admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital on 3 November 1916. Later he was a patient at the Bulford Military Hospital (on the Salisbury Plain about 120 kilometres west of London) where he was admitted on 23 December 1916 and discharged on 2 February 1917.
On 3 April 1917 Robinson was posted to the Australian Machine Gun Training Depot at Belton Park Grantham, located about 35 kilometres east of Nottingham and about 160 kilometres north of London. On 24 April 1917 he was posted back to France as Reinforcements and on 13 May 1917 joined the 7th Machine Gun Company that was part of the 7th Australian Infantry Brigade (comprised of the 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th Infantry Battalions). During 1917 the 7th Brigade was engaged in major battles at Lagnicourt, Passchendaele and Broodseinde.
On 13 October 1917 Robert Robinson was promoted temporary corporal and on 30 November 1917 he was promoted corporal. On 28 January 1918, Robinson was posted back to the Australian Machine Gun Training Depot at Grantham in England. No other posting were recorded for the rest of the War.
On 2 January 1919 Corporal Robert Robinson embarked from England onboard HMAS Berrima for return to Australia; he disembarked on 17 February 1919. He was discharged from the Australian Imperial Force at Brisbane on 18 April 1919.
Bob Robbie’s father’s World War II service
Bob Robbie’s father Robert Robinson (senior) re-enlisted in the Australian Army during World War II. At age 49 years he joined the Citizen Military Forces at Cairns on 2 February 1942; Service Number Q116237. After initial retraining with the 11th Training Battalion at Redbank (about 25 kilometres west of Brisbane) Robinson was posted to the 29th Australian Infantry Training Battalion at Goondiwindi near the New South Wales border (about 300 kilometres south west of Brisbane). He was promoted acting corporal on 15 March 1942 and acting sergeant on 25 May 1942.
Robert Robinson (senior) World War II Army recruitment photo 1942.
Scource: National Archives of Australia service records.
On 15 September 1942 Sergeant Robinson was posted to the 2nd Australian Machine Gun Training Battalion at Tenterfield (about 15 kilometres south of the Queensland border in northern New South Wales). On 1 December 1943 Sergeant Robinson was posted to the 7th Australian Infantry Training Battalion at Warwick (about 130 kilometres south west of Brisbane).
On the 30 March 1944, Sergeant Robinson was posted to the staff of the Headquarters 1st Australian Reinforcement Training Battalion (Jungle Warfare) at Canungra (about 65 kilometres south of Brisbane). On 17 March 1945 he was promoted staff sergeant. Robert Robinson (senior) was discharged at Redbank on 3 November 1945 after some 1 371 days of service during World War II.
Robert Arnold Robinson’s education
When aged 5 years Bob Robinson started his formal primary education at the Central Boys State School in Abbott Street Cairns which he attended from February 1930 until December 1937. The school opened in 1878 and closed in 1994.
In October 1937 when nearing the completion of his initial eight years of schooling Robbie sat for the University of Queensland’s Public Scholarship examination. He achieved passes in the four subjects English (mark 75 per cent), Mathematics (mark 92 per cent), History (mark 75 per cent), and Geography (mark 72 per cent). Robbie’s overall average scholarship mark was 79 per cent.
Between February 1938 and November 1939 Robbie attended the Cairns State High School. Now heritage listed, the school opened in 1917 as the first high school in Cairns. It is located at the corner of Sheridan and Upward Streets a few blocks north of the Cairns central business district.
In November 1939 Robbie sat for the Public Junior Certificate examination set by the University of Queensland. He achieved passes in the subjects English, Geometry, French, Latin, Arithmetic, Algebra, History, Geography and Physics with first class passes being obtained in all but the first two listed subjects.
While at Cairns State High Robbie studied under the general direction of Eric Absalom Loney (1882-1966) who was the school’s principal during 1938-1940. In September 1916, the Brisbane-born Loney who was then a 23 year-old student teacher at the University of Queensland enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force; Service Number 37800. Loney served as a gunner with the 11th Field Artillery Brigade and was wounded in action in France. He returned to Australia in March 1919.
The heritage listed Cairns State High School in recent years.
Image from WIP Construction website.
During World War II Eric Loney enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force; Service Number 6342. (An enlistment date was not stated in his summary service record.) Loney served until discharged in January 1948 at which time he held the rank of Pilot Officer with No 61 Squadron Royal Air Force. In the later part of World War II No 61 Squadron RAF operated Avro Lancaster heavy bombers; many Australians served in the squadron. Loney’s role with the RAAF and the RAF during World War II was not discovered during research for this article. However, as he would have been nearing 60 years of age at enlistment he was unlikely to have been an air crew member. Eric Loney’s remains were buried at Bundaberg Cemetery in 1966.
Between February 1941 and November 1942 and again in 1946 Bob Robbie studied at the Central Technical College in Brisbane. Built from 1911 and principally located beside the Queensland Parliament House and the Brisbane City Botanical Gardens at 2 George Street, the college was named the Queensland Institute of Technology in 1965 and the Queensland University of Technology from 1987.
A Block at the (former) Central Technical College Brisbane circa 1999.
Image from Wikipedia website.
At the Central Technical College in 1941 while also working as a cadet draftsman, Robbie studied and passed with honours Mathematics Stage 1 of a Diploma of Civil Engineering course. Robbie returned to the College in 1942 to commence a special survey drafting course for officers of the Queensland Lands Department.
Robbie was still undertaking the Central Technical College course when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in January 1943. After his RAAF discharge in January 1946, Robbie returned to the College to complete the special survey drafting course. The subjects Robbie undertook on this course included: Astronomy; Geodesy; Map Projections; Spherical Trigonometry; Computations; Road, Rail and Contour Surveys; Plans from Field Books and Field Books from Plans.
Public Curator Office 1940
For three months in early 1940 Bob Robinson was employed as a 15-year old junior clerk with the Public Curator Office in Brisbane under RJS Barnett who was Public Curator from 1933 to 1944. Established in 1916, the Public Curator administered deceased estates and appointed trustees, executors, administrators, guardians, attorneys, liquidators and receivers of trusts and estates. The Public Curator had various other duties. The office was abolished in 1979 when the Public Trustee of Queensland came into effect.
Queensland Lands Department 1940-1948
On 4 June 1940 Bob Robinson joined the Survey Office of the Queensland Lands Department as a cadet draftsman. He was 15 years old. The Survey Office was then located in the Land Administration Building (formerly the Executive Building) that runs between George and William Streets Brisbane and adjoins the Queen’s Gardens. Since the mid-1990s the heritage listed building has been used as the Treasury Hotel.
Land Administration Building and Queen’s Gardens from William Street circa 1933.
Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 181.
Split from the Department of Lands and Works in 1866, the then Department of Public Lands’ main functions were to acquire and develop (open-up) new land for settlement. These functions included selling, auctioning or leasing town, country and suburban land; issuing occupation permits and licences; rabbit control; dingo control; control of noxious weeds; land development projects; loans; valuations and opening land for use as roads (or closing roads for other land uses).
The Lands Department also undertook schemes to provide relief to people on the land or to encourage settlement. Such schemes included: the War Service Land Settlement Scheme, and various Closer Settlement Schemes such as the Fitzroy Basin Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) Development Scheme (that developed some 4.5 million hectares of land in the brigalow belt between 1963 and 1976).
In 1875 a branch was established in the Lands Department to undertake surveying and mapping functions formerly vested in the Surveyor-General of Queensland. (From March 1875 William Alcock Tully [1830-1905] acted as Surveyor-General until being formally appointed in July 1880.)
The Lands Department also administered various State land tenures under the provisions of the Land Act, including reserves and cemeteries. Even in the 1990s over 70 per cent of Queensland’s total land area comprised State land under various tenures.
As mentioned, between January 1943 and January 1946 Robbie’s service with the Survey Office was interrupted by World War II service with the Royal Australian Air Force. Immediately prior to his RAAF enlistment on 29 January 1943 Robbie was engaged in drawing plans for Public Estate Improvement roads. The Public Estate Improvement Fund was used for construction works that improved access to lands being made available for settlement. Such construction works included roads, bores, wells, bridges and culverts. (Nardella, 2019).
After his war service Robbie returned to the Survey Office in Brisbane on 10 January 1946 as an assistant draftsman under chief cartographer William Lennon (Bill) Wegner. Robbie remained with the Survey Office until 30 August 1948 when he left to take up an appointment with the newly established National Mapping Section of the Commonwealth Department of the Interior in Melbourne.
Royal Australian Air Force World War II
On 29 January 1943, Bob Robinson enlisted as an air crew member with the Royal Australian Air Force at 18 years of age; Service Number 434806. Robbie enlisted at the RAAF No 3 Recruiting Centre (located at 35-37 Creek Street in the Brisbane CBD) where he was designated as an Aircraftsman.
Robbie was posted to the RAAF’s No 1 Initial Training School that was located on Victoria’s Western Port about 65 kilometres south east of central Melbourne; it was about 4 kilometres west of the Royal Australian Navy training establishment HMAS Cerberus.
The RAAF’s 1 ITS was established in early 1940 under the Empire Air Training Scheme that aimed to train both pilots and air crew from the former British dominions to support England during World War II. The former RAAF School site address is now 124 Lord Somers Road Somers.
Bob Robinson at age 18 years in 1943.
RAAF recruitment image from National Archives of Australia service records.
29 January 1943
27 March 1943
11 November 1943
11 May 1944
11 May 1945
Bob Robinson’s RAAF Ranks World War II.
Source: Service records on National Archives of Australia website.
*Note: Date refers to date of appointment or date of promotion.
29 January 1943
Air Crew V
17 March 1943
Air Crew V (Gunner)
14 October 1943
Air Crew II (Gunner)
11 November 1943
Wireless Operator Air Gunner
11 March 1944
Wireless Operator (Air)
Bob Robinson’s RAAF Musterings World War II.
Source: Service records on National Archives of Australia website.
The RAAF’s No 1 Initial Training School was built on 92 acres of land, comprising 7.5 acres of land acquired from the the Trustee of Lord Somers’ Holiday Camp as well as a further 85 acres acquired from the Coolart estate. (Lord Arthur Herbert Tennyson Somers [1887-1944] was governor of Victoria from 1926 to 1931 and was active in the scouting movement and with Red Cross. From the late 1800s the Coolart estate had been owned by prominent Victorian families including parliamentarian Frederick Sheppard Grimwade and businessman Thomas Luxton who owned the McEwen hardware chain.)
Wing Commander Norman Mulroney (1893-1988) was Commanding Officer of the School between May 1942 and November 1943. (As a World War I pilot, Lieutenant Norman Mulroney served with No 3 Squadron Australian Flying Corps in France. He witnessed the shooting down of the German fighter pilot Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen on 21 April 1918.)
The training course at RAAF 1 ITS included mathematics, navigation, law and administration, signals, medical, physical training, science, armament, gas defence, and hygiene. A total of 12 984 air crew and 1 271 Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force recruits were trained at Somers between 1940 and 1945. The School was disbanded in October 1945. After the war the site became a migration camp.
On 27 March 1943 Bob Robinson was promoted to Leading Aircraftman; he was 18 years of age. On 1 April 1943 after completion of his initial training, Leading Aircraftman Bob Robinson was posted to the RAAF’s No 3 Wireless Air Gunner School that was located at Maryborough airport in Queensland. The school trained personnel in the skills required for aircraft crew members to become air wireless operators and air gunners. During training at 3 WAGS Robbie flew a total of 11 hours 40 minutes in Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation single-engine Wackett monoplane and in twin-engine de Havilland DH.84 Dragon bi-plane aircraft.
Between 13 October and 11 November 1943 Leading Aircraftman Bob Robinson was posted to the RAAF’s No 1 Bombing and Gunnery School that was located at Evans Head on the New South Wales north coast about 50 kilometres south of Byron Bay. During that course Bob flew for some 8 hours in single-engine Fairey Battle monoplanes. These aircraft were designed and manufactured by the British Fairey Aviation Company in the mid‑1930s as light bombers. Bob passed this RAAF No 38 Gunner’s Course. On 11 November 1943 Bob Robinson was promoted to Sergeant. He was two weeks shy of his nineteenth birthday. On the same day Bob was given authority to wear the Air Gunner Badge on his uniform; see image with service medals below.
On 21 November 1943 Sergeant Bob Robinson was posted to the RAAF’s No 2 Embarkation Depot that was located at the then Bradfield Park in inner northern Sydney (between what is now Fiddens Wharf Road and Lady Game Drive Lindfield). Usually when all training had been completed RAAF air crew and ground staff were posted to embarkation depots. There they were kitted out and given final medical examinations prior to being posted to operational theatres. Bob embarked (by sea) at Sydney on 28 November 1943 and disembarked in England on 10 January 1944. Bob’s service record did not show the vessel he travelled on nor the route he took to the United Kingdom.
The locations in Australia where Bob Robinson served with the Royal Australian Air Force between enlistment in January 1943 and discharge in January 1946 are annotated on the map in Figure 1 below. The various locations where Bob Robinson served with the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Air Force in England and the Mediterranean between January 1944 and October 1945 are annotated on the map in Figure 2 below.
Figure 1: Australian locations where Bob Robinson served with the RAAF 1943-1946.
Map annotated by Paul Wise.
Figure 2: Locations where Bob Robinson served with the RAAF and the RAF in England and the Mediterranean in 1944-1945.
Map annotated by Paul Wise.
No 11 (RAAF) Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre Brighton 1944
Between 10 January and late March 1944 Sergeant Bob Robinson was posted to the No 11 (RAAF) Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre at Brighton on the coast in Sussex about 80 kilometres south of London. This Unit was the receiving station for Royal Australian Air Force non-commissioned air crew arriving in the United Kingdom. No 11 (RAAF) PDRC had moved from Bournemouth to Brighton in May 1943. In Brighton the Unit occupied both the Grand Hotel and Metropole Hotel on the beach front. However, many of these hotels’ luxury fittings had been removed to make way for service style billets. RAAF air crews arriving in the United Kingdom would wait at Brighton for up to 3 or 4 months before being posted to training or other units. No 11 (RAAF) PDRC also occupied facilities at RAF Charmy Down in Somerset. No 11 PDRC closed in March 1946.
RAF Station Whitley Bay 1944
From 16 February to 14 March 1944 Sergeant Bob Robinson was attached to Royal Air Force Station Whitley Bay that was located in northern England on the North Sea coast in Northumberland about 13 kilometres north east of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Here Bob undertook a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer’s Course.
No 2 Radio School Royal Air Force Station Yatesbury 1944
Between late March and mid-May 1944 Sergeant Bob Robinson attended an air crew wireless operator’s training course at the Royal Air Force’s No 2 Radio School located at RAF Station Yatesbury. This RAF Station was in Wiltshire about 125 kilometres west of London and about 18 kilometres south west of Swindon. In 1938 the RAF built No 2 Electrical and Wireless School (later renamed No 2 Radio School) at Yatesbury. The theory of wireless and Morse code were taught on the ground. Twin-engine DH.89 Dominie bi-planes built by the de Havilland Aircraft Company and single-engine Percival Proctor radio trainer and communications monoplanes were used for the aerial training. During this training course Robbie flew for a total of 8 hours in these two aircraft.
Among the wartime instructors at No 2 Radio School was the later Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (1917-2008) who became a science fiction author and inventor. On 11 May 1944, at the conclusion of this course, Bob Robinson was promoted Flight Sergeant. (The RAAF rank of Flight Sergeant was equivalent in status to the Army rank of Warrant Officer Class 2 but did not have a warrant issued under The Defence Act.)
No 11 Radio School Royal Air Force Station Hooton Park 1944
From mid-May to early July 1944 the 19-year old recently promoted Flight Sergeant Bob Robinson undertook a training course on the operation of Air‑to‑Surface Vessel Radar at the Royal Air Force’s No 11 Radio School. This school was located at Hooton Park aerodrome near the south west bank of the River Mersey about 12 kilometres south east of Liverpool.
As part of Technical Training Command, No 11 Radio School RAF occupied three World War I built hangars at Hooton Park aerodrome during 1942-44. Previously known as No 3 Radio School at Prestwick, No 11 Radio School was the only school to train Coastal Command's airborne radar operators for submarine detection during World War II. During this course Robbie flew a total of 23 hours and 30 minutes in radar-equipped twin-engine British Avro Anson and Blackburn Botha aircraft. In 1960 the south eastern part of Hooton Park aerodrome was sold to Vauxhall Motors for the construction of a vehicle production plant at Ellesmere Port.
RAF No 5 Personnel Despatch Centre Blackpool 1944
Between 7 and 16 July 1944 Flight Sergeant Bob Robinson was posted to the Royal Air Force’s No 5 Personnel Despatch Centre that was located on the Irish Sea coast at Blackpool in Lancashire about 45 kilometres north of Liverpool. Robbie embarked in England (by sea) on 17 July 1944 and disembarked in Egypt on 3 August 1944. He spent the next day at an Army Transit Camp in Egypt, possibly at Port Said at the Mediterranean end of the Suez Canal.
RAF No 1 (Middle East) Aircrew Reception Centre Jerusalem 1944
On 5 August 1944 Flight Sergeant Bob Robinson was posted to the Royal Air Force’s No 1 (Middle East) Aircrew Reception Centre that was located at Jerusalem in Palestine. Bob’s service record gave no other details about his time with this unit.
RAF No 78 Operational Training Unit Palestine 1944
Between 23 September and 2 December 1944, Flight Sergeant Bob Robinson was posted to the No 78 Operational Training Unit of the Royal Air Force, based in Palestine. The Unit had been formed at Ein Shemer in Palestine in February 1944 to train general reconnaissance crews in the use of Air‑to‑Surface Vessel Radar and the Leigh Light which was a powerful 24-inch diameter carbon-arc searchlight fitted to some Coastal Command bombers to help spot surfaced U-boats at night. The ASV radar and Leigh Light are further discussed below under Vickers Wellington Mark XIV aircraft.
The Ein Shemer aerodrome was about 12 kilometres east of the Mediterranean Coast near Hadera and about 75 kilometres north west of Jerusalem. No 78 OTU RAF continued operations until June 1945; about a month after the War in Europe ended. While with 78 OTU Flight Sergeant Robinson flew some 45 hours of advanced training in twin‑engine Avro Anson and Vickers Wellington Mark XIII aircraft. This flying would most likely have included long operational sorties over the Mediterranean.
RAF No 22 Personnel Transit Centre Cairo 1944
On 3 December 1944 Flight Sergeant Bob Robinson was posted to the Royal Air Force’s No 22 Personnel Transit Centre that was located at RAF Station Almaza which was an airport about 12 kilometres north east of the Nile at Cairo (and about 4 kilometres south west of the present day Cairo airport).
RAF Personnel Transit Centres in Italy 1944-1945
On 6 December 1944 Flight Sergeant Bob Robinson was posted to the Royal Air Force’s No 54 Personnel Transit Centre located at Taranto on the Gulf of Taranto (Ionian Sea) in southern Italy about 420 kilometres south east of Rome.
Flight Sergeant Bob Robinson was posted to another RAF Personnel Transit Centre on 20 December 1944. This time it was to the Royal Air Force’s No 56 Personnel Transit Centre. It was located at Portici now a metropolitan city on the Gulf of Naples (Tyrrhenian Sea) about 7 kilometres south east of central Naples and to the west of Mount Vesuvius. Robbie was to remain there until early in the new year of 1945.
RAAF No 458 Squadron in Italy and Gibraltar 1945
On 2 January 1945 Flight Sergeant Bob Robinson was posted to the Royal Australian Air Force’s 458 Squadron that was then based at Foggia airfield in southern Italy about 260 kilometres south east of Rome. At that time Robbie’s official mustering was Wireless Operator (Air). However, as mentioned above he was also a trained operator of the Air-to-Surface Vessel Radar system used for detecting submarines and other enemy shipping. During Robbie’s time with 458 Squadron it was commanded by (acting) Wing Commander Robert Charles MacKay DFC RAAF (1915-1948) who held that command from July 1944 until June 1945 when the Squadron was disbanded. (Sadly when commanding No 22 Squadron RAAF the then Flight Lieutenant Mackay together with a pilot under instruction was killed in a Tiger Moth training accident at Schofields north west of Sydney on 19 November 1948.)
458 Squadron RAAF was formed under the Empire Air Training Scheme at Williamtown (north east of Newcastle) in 1941. Once operational in Europe, 458 Squadron comprised various nationalities. As part of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command between August 1941 and February 1942, it flew Vickers Wellington aircraft over Europe from an RAF base at Holme-on-Spalding Moor (RAF Holme) located between York and Hull in Yorkshire. Between September 1942 and 1945, 458 Squadron operated as part of the RAF Middle East Command from bases in North Africa, Malta, Sardinia, Italy and Gibraltar. Here it carried out anti‑shipping and anti-submarine operations (bombing and torpedoing) and later air-sea rescue operations in the Mediterranean in support of the North African and Italian Campaigns.
Vickers Wellington Mark XIV aircraft
During Bob Robinson’s time with 458 Squadron RAAF it was equipped with Vickers Wellington Mark XIV British made twin-engined, long-range medium bombers. They were designed during the mid-1930s and had a geodetic airframe structure principally designed by scientist, engineer and inventor Sir Barnes Neville Wallis (1887-1979). The fuselage was built from 1 650 elements, consisting of duralumin W-beams which formed a metal framework over which an outer skin of treated Irish linen was fixed; see image below.
The geodetic airframes of Vickers Wellington Mark 1s in production at Brooklands, Weybridge, Surrey in 1939.
BAE Systems Heritage image.
Wellington bombers were produced from 1936 to 1945. The Mark XIV version entered service in 1943. This version was powered by two Bristol Hercules XVII 14 cylinder two-row supercharged air cooled radial engines. These engines were low altitude-rated with each producing 1 735 horsepower. Some 841 Mark XIV Wellingtons were built. The Mark XIV had a wingspan of 86 feet 2-inches, a maximum speed of about 220 knots (about 250 miles per hour), a normal range of 1 390 miles, a maximum range of 1 760 miles and a ceiling of 16 000 feet.
The Mark XIVs were the last of several maritime versions of Wellingtons built for Coastal Command. The Mark XIV was classed as a general reconnaissance bomber. This version had a loaded weight of 31 000 pounds and could carry a bomb load of 5 000 pounds or four 420 pound depth charges or two 18-inch 1 610 pound torpedoes. The Mark XIV also had blast plates and rails fitted under the wings to allow it to carry eight unguided 3-inch rocket projectiles with either 25-pound amour piecing or 60-pound high explosive warheads.
Unlike early versions of the Wellington the Mark XIV was not generally fitted with the apparently unsuccessful retractable revolving underside turret. The Mark XIV’s defensive armaments comprised two 0.303 inch (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns in the front turret, four 0.303 inch Browning machine guns in the rear turret, and two 0.303 inch Vickers K machine guns (gas operated rapid fire weapons) in the waist position (one on either side of the aircraft).
The Coastal Command Wellington Mark XIV version carried an ASV Mark III radar (short for Radar, Air-to-Surface Vessel) in the radome chin on the nose. The ASV Mark III was first deployed by Coastal Command in March 1943. Produced by the Manchester-based Ferranti electrical engineering and equipment firm, the ASV Mark III radar used the cavity magnetron vacuum tube oscillator. This oscillator was developed in 1940 by John Randall and Harry Boot at the University of Birmingham and was manufactured by the UK‑based General Electric Company.
The cavity magnetron allowed shorter wavelength radars that could detect smaller objects using smaller antennae. With a reasonably sized antenna, a 10 cm wavelength radar could detect objects of about 10 cm in size. This development allowed radar systems to be more easily fitted in aircraft. ASV Mark III radars operated with a wavelength of 10 cm in the SHF radio band at a frequency of about 3 GHz. This allowed the radar beam to be accurately directed by a 28-inch paraboloid reflector. Until September 1943, 10 cm radar signals could not be detected by German equipment. The ASV radar gave a 60° field of view in front of the aircraft. The display was the familiar Plan Position Indicator which presented a map view of the relative positions.
An ASV Mark III radar set.
Image from iopscience website.
The ASV radar was used in conjunction with the dust bin turret mounted Leigh Light fitted to some Wellington Mark XIV aircraft. The Leigh Light was a 24‑inch diameter carbon-arc searchlight mounted in the retractable Frazer Nash under‑belly turret that was controlled by a hydraulic motor and ram.
The Leigh Light was deployed from June 1942. The maximum beam intensity was 50 million candelas (the historical candlepower is equal to 0.981 candela) without the spreading lens and about 20 million candelas with the lens. However, some operators preferred to use the light without the lens.
Total weight of the turret-mounted Leigh Light was 1 100 pounds. The Light control system on the Wellington was similar to that used for the turret. The turret itself was rotated by a Vane oil motor for movement in azimuth. The projector was moved by a ram inside the turret for changes in elevation. The maximum speed of rotation when the control column was turned to the limit was 40° per second. The limits of the light’s movement were 60° to port and 180° to starboard.
The Leigh Light operator was located in the nose of the aircraft and could control the searchlight beam in both elevation and azimuth. Indicators showed the direction in which the beam would shine. The operator was able to train the searchlight in approximately the right direction and distance before the light was exposed. The lens gave a spread of 10° in either a horizontal or vertical plane which made searching for the target easier. The maximum effective range of the Leigh Light in ordinary weather was about two miles.
A Leigh Light in a Frazer Nash turret at the RAF Museum Hendon UK.
Image by Roland Turner 2006, on Wikimedia Commons website.
The arc in the Leigh Light was fully automatic in operation with the rate of feed of the carbons being automatically controlled. Power for the arc, which ran at 120 to 150 amperes, was obtained from seven 12-volt 40 ampere hour type D accumulators. A trickle charge fitment would maintain full charge provided the arc was not run for more than 3 half-minute periods per hour. (A skilled Leigh Light operator usually had little difficulty in illuminating the target within two or three seconds of switching on.) Fully charged accumulators maintained the arc for about six minutes without recharging. (Power had originally been provided by a Ford V8 engine powered generator but that was soon abandoned in favour of the rechargeable batteries.)
The Leigh Light was the concept of the later Wing Commander Humphrey de Verd Leigh OBE DFC AFC (1897–1980) a Royal Air Force personnel officer who produced the prototype after chatting with returning air crew. Later development and production of the Light was undertaken by Savage and Parsons Ltd of Watford, about 25 kilometres north west of central London. As well as the turret-mounted type used on the Wellingtons there was an under‑wing mounted version of the Leigh Light used on some other aircraft.
World War II German U-boats needed to surface (mostly at night) to use their diesel engines to operate a DC electric machine that worked as a DC generator as well for submarine propulsion. The Leigh Light was successfully used from June 1942 onwards to attack U-boats as they were recharging their batteries on the surface at night. Up to then U-boats had been relatively safe from attack at night. The attacking aircraft would approach the submarine using the ASV radar and only switch on the searchlight beam during the final attack approach. The U-boat usually had insufficient time to dive and the aircraft bomb aimer had a clear view of the target.
The ASV radar/Leigh Light system was so successful that for a time German submarines were forced to charge their batteries during the daytime when they had a better chance of seeing any approaching aircraft. In September 1943 Germany introduced the Naxos radar warning system to detect the British centimetric radar but by then a large number of U-boats had been destroyed. (Total annual U-boat losses during World War II were 1939: 9, 1940: 24, 1941: 35, 1942: 87, 1943: 244, 1944: 249, and 1945: 120.)
In the image below a 458 Squadron RAAF Vickers Wellington Mark XIV call sign F for Freddy (serial NB891) is seen in flight over Italy during World War II. The nose mounted ASV radar and the retracted under-belly Leigh Light turret are visible.
A 458 Squadron RAAF Vickers Welllington Mark XIV over Italy during World War II.
Australian War Memorial image, Accession No P09483.003.
Activities with No 458 Squadron RAAF 1945
Between 2 January and 8 June 1945 Bob Robinson flew about 50 hours on non‑operational flights in Vickers Wellington Mark XIV aircraft with 458 Squadron RAAF. These flights originated from bases at Foggia in Italy and at Gibraltar. Non-operational flights were for purposes such as instruction for pilots and air crew or for aircraft or equipment checking. Also during that period Robbie flew on 9 general reconnaissance night coastal operational sorties in 458 Squadron Wellington Mark XIV aircraft. These operational sorties involved a total flying time of 63 hours, an average of 7 hours per sortie. The sorties were initially based from Foggia and after 29 January 1945 from the RAF Station at Gibraltar (on the northern side of the Rock). 458 Squadron RAAF was based at Gibraltar from 29 January until early June 1945.
On 11 May 1945 while stationed at Gibraltar, the 20-year old Flight Sergeant Robinson was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer with 458 Squadron RAAF. (The RAAF rank of Warrant Officer was equivalent to the Army rank of Warrant Officer Class 1.) 458 Squadron RAAF was disbanded at Gibraltar on 9 June 1945. This followed from the cease fire in Europe and the German surrender on 8 May 1945 (Western European time).
RAF No 55 Personnel Transit Centre Algeria 1945
On 8 June 1945 Warrant Officer Bob Robinson was posted to the Royal Air Force’s No 55 Personnel Transit Centre that was located at Fort De L'eau about 12 kilometres east of central Algiers, the capital of the then French colony of Algeria (1830-1962) in North Africa. Now named Bordj El Kiffan, the then Algiers’ suburb of Fort De L'eau was a famous beach resort on the Bay of Algiers (under French rule prior to independence in 1962).
RAF Station Beccles 1945
Between 20 June and 2 October 1945 Warrant Officer Bob Robinson was posted to the Royal Australian Air Force’s No 15 Air Crew Holding Unit. This RAAF Unit operated at RAF Station Beccles from 12 June to 5 November 1945 to process Australian air crew who had become redundant following the cessation of World War II hostilities in May 1945. RAF Beccles was located at Ellough Moor about 4 kilometres south east of Beccles in Suffolk. The aerodrome was about 30 kilometres south east of Norwich, about 9 kilometres west of the North Sea coast and about 150 kilometres north east of London.
Opened in 1943, Beccles was the last aerodrome to be built in Suffolk during World War II and was the most easterly aerodrome in wartime England. Beccles was intended for use by the United States Army Air Force but the USAAF never occupied the base. In 1944 the Beccles aerodrome was transferred to RAF Bomber Command and later to RAF Coastal Command. Various other units also used the base that closed at the end of 1945.
Back to No 11 (RAAF) Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre Brighton
On 3 October 1945 Warrant Officer Bob Robinson was posted back to the RAAF’s No 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre at Brighton on the English Channel coast. This posting was the start of Robbie’s return sea voyage to Australia. Unfortunately Robbie’s service record did not give details of his embarkation or other information about his return voyage. His service record only noted that he disembarked at Sydney on 4 November 1945 so presumably he embarked soon after arrival at No 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre.
However, from press reports and other sources it that appears that Bob Robinson and other returning RAAF air crew departed Liverpool on 4 October 1945 onboard the 25 500 tons steamer Stirling Castle. She steamed via Algiers (8 October), Port Said (13 October), Suez (14 October), and Fremantle (28 October) to reach Sydney on 4 November 1945. The Stirling Castle departed Sydney on the same day bound for Southampton (Anonymous, undated G).
RAAF No 2 Personnel Depot Bradfield Park 1945
Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper indicated that Warrant Officer Bob Robinson was one of 1 459 RAAF air crew repatriated from Britain and the Middle East on the steamer Stirling Castle that berthed at No 9 Wharf at Sydney’s Woolloomooloo at about 1:30 pm on 4 November 1945. On disembarkation Bob Robinson and the other air crew members were ferried in a fleet of buses for the 15 or so kilometre trip to the RAAF’s No 2 Personnel Depot at Bradfield Park for processing and transit back to their homes (Anonymous, 1945). Bob had left Bradfield Park for England on 26 November 1943, nearly two years previously and just two days after his nineteenth birthday.
It is not clear just where Bob Robinson celebrated his twenty-first birthday on 26 November 1945. His service record indicated Robbie was granted 67 days leave soon after return to Australia. So hopefully he was quickly given some of his well-earned leave after arrival in Sydney with travel arranged back to his home in Brisbane; most likely by train. He had certainly achieved a lot for a 21-year old.
RAAF No 3 Personnel Depot Sandgate 1945
On 13 December 1945 Warrant Officer Bob Robinson was posted to the RAAF’s No 3 Personnel Depot Sandgate for discharge processing. RAAF Station Sandgate was located in the northern Brisbane suburb of Brighton to the east of the Hornibrook Highway on the Moreton Bay foreshore generally between Twenty Third and Nineteenth Avenues. In April 1944, the RAAF’s No 3 Embarkation Depot at Sandgate was redesignated No 3 Personnel Depot. From September 1945, RAAF Sandgate was converted from a training role to an RAAF demobilisation centre for personnel returning from World War II service. RAAF Sandgate closed on 29 January 1947.
RAAF discharge 1946
Warrant Officer Bob Robinson was discharged from the Discharge Section of No 3 Personnel Depot at RAAF Sandgate with effect from 8 January 1946. However, owing to the granting of leave it is uncertain if Robbie actually attended RAAF Sandgate. At discharge Robbie was 21 years of age and had a few weeks short of three-years wartime service with the Royal Australian Air Force. At discharge Robbie’s residential address was given as 141 Cornwall Street Annerley (about 4 kilometres south of Brisbane CBD).
As a consequence of his war service Robbie was entitled to wear the service medals shown in the image below. From left to right these medals are: the 1939-1945 Star, the Italy Star, the Defence Medal and the 1939‑1945 War Medal. Also shown in the image below is the Air Gunner’s Badge that Robbie qualified to wear on his uniform on 11 November 1943.
The World War II service medals Bob Robinson was awarded together with the Air Gunnner’s Badge he was awarded. The Badge was worn on the left breast of the dress uniform above the service medals or ribbons.
Australian Defence Department medal images and Australian War Memorial AG Badge image collated by Paul Wise.
On 10 January 1946 soon after his RAAF discharge Robbie returned to the Survey Office of the Lands Department in George Street Brisbane as an Assistant Draftsman. He remained with the Survey Office until 30 August 1948 when he left to take up a draftsman position in the newly created National Mapping Section of the Department of the Interior in Melbourne.
Marriage to Coral Patricia Flitcroft circa 1947
During research for this article only limited information was discovered on Bob Robinson’s wife Coral Patricia née Flitcroft. Coral was the second daughter of Cecil Stanley Flitcroft (1895-1954) and his wife Leila Fead née Galbraith (1900-2000). Coral’s parents had married in Townsville in 1921.
Cecil Stanley Flitcroft joined the Australian Imperial Force at Charters Towers as a 21-year old on 3 March 1916. Cecil was born at Byron Bay and at enlistment his father was occupied as a fruit grower at Wellington Point in the Redlands to the east of Brisbane. Cecil served as a private in the 1st Field Ambulance in France from November 1917 and was severely wounded in action. Private Flitcroft returned to Australia on 18 January 1919.
Prior to World War I Cecil Flitcroft worked as a telegraphist and after his marriage in 1921 he initially resided in Townsville where he was occupied as a clerk. In the 1930s Cecil and Leila Flitcroft resided at 85 South Street near the Rockhampton railway station and Cecil’s occupation was still listed as a clerk. As a student, Robbie’s future wife Coral Flitcroft had attended the Rockhampton Central State Girls School in the late 1930s.
The engagement of Coral Flitcroft and Bob Robinson was announced in the Brisbane newspaper The Courier-Mail on 15 July 1947. However, a subsequent marriage notice was not discovered. (Official marriage notices in Queensland are not publicly searchable until 75 years after the event). In 1947 the Flitcroft family resided in Verney Road in the Brisbane riverside suburb of East Graceville where Cecil’s occupation was railway employee.
Apparently Bob Robinson and Coral Flitcroft married later in 1947 or in 1948. They were together for over 30 years in Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra. Bob and Coral were to have four children, namely daughters Marian, Laurel Margaret, Gail and Beverly Ann. Sadly when living in Canberra, Bob and Coral went their separate ways in the early 1980s when Bob was in his late fifties.
The first record discovered that confirmed Bob and Coral’s marriage was a 1949 electoral roll entry that listed them as residing together at 49 Elizabeth Street Malvern (in eastern Melbourne). Bob was then listed as a draftsman and Coral as being engaged in home duties. Other Melbourne electoral roll addresses identified for Bob and Coral Robinson were: McEwan Road Heidelberg (in 1954) and 15 Pyalong Avenue Rosanna (in 1963 and 1967). As mentioned below, they were also listed together on electoral rolls in Canberra between 1972 and 1980 (the last year for which publicly searchable electoral rolls are available).
Service with National Mapping 1948-1985
Bob Robinson had a 37-year career as a cartographer (draftsman) with National Mapping between August 1948 and July 1985. Bob’s initial 20 years with Nat Map were in the organisation’s Melbourne offices and the remaining 17 years were based in the Division’s Canberra offices.
Bob’s appointment as a Draftsman, Grade 1 (Photogrammetric), Third Division with the then National Mapping Section of the Department of the Interior was promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 24 June 1948. However, at that time Bob was still employed as an Assistant Draftsman with the Survey Office in Brisbane. Bob took up his Nat Map appointment on 31 August 1948.
When Bob took up his Nat Map appointment, Nat Map’s (Photogrammetric) office was located in Burke House a 7-storey building at 340 Collins Street in the Melbourne central business district (that today has the Hardy Brothers jewellery shop on the ground floor). By late 1949, Nat Map’s Melbourne office was relocated to the All Saints Anglican Church Hall at 2 Chapel Street in St Kilda East. It was about 5 kilometres south east of the CBD and just south of the intersection with Wellington Street/Dandenong Road. Work on the construction of All Saints Parish Hall had commenced in 1908. It was named the Gregory Memorial Hall after the founder of the All Saints Church, the Reverend John Herbert Gregory (1827-1897), (Wise, 2015).
Gregory Hall 1949-1959
The Nat Map Melbourne office was located at Gregory Hall for some 10 years; from 1949 to 1959. While there, in 1951 the National Mapping Section was renamed the National Mapping Office within the Department of the Interior. In 1956 Nat Map became the Division of National Mapping within the Department of National Development. Bob Robinson worked at Gregory Hall throughout the time Nat Map’s Melbourne office was located there.
Robbie was twice promoted while at Gregory Hall. The Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 3 July 1952 promulgated Bob Robinson’s promotion to Draftsman, Grade 2 (Photogrammetric) Third Division in the Photogrammetric Survey Sub-section (vice JD Lines). The Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 6 September 1956 promulgated Bob Robinson’s promotion to Senior Draftsman Third Division, Melbourne (again vice JD Lines). As Senior Draftsman Bob’s stated duties were to supervise and direct the work of the Photogrammetric Drafting Office.
As further discussed under Professional affiliation below, during 1954 Robbie worked with others on the first Australian application of Shoran radar technology for mapping control. This work was undertaken in a project for the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics over the Pine Creek 1:253 440 (1 inch to 4 miles) scale map sheet area in the Northern Territory. Accurate planimetric maps were required as a base for prospectors’ charts at a scale of one mile to an inch in the Pine Creek area. These charts depicted radioactive anomalies obtained from airborne scintillometer surveys conducted by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. This project would have given Robbie an opportunity to draw on his World War II radar operator experience with the Royal Australian Air Force.
Bob Robinson at Nat Map’s Gregory Hall office St Kilda East in 1953.
Back Row (L R): Alan Thomson, Len Bently, Bert Reaby, Bill Trevena, John Evans, Ted Caspers, Jim Saunders, Phil Lennie, Bob Foster, Dave Hocking.
Centre Row (L-R): Bob Robinson, Keith Waller, Ken Johnson, Ben Kongings, Bill Stroud, Bill Dingeldie, Reg Ford, Joe Lines.
Front Row (L-R): Jeanette Phillips, Terry Kennedy, Jennifer Cowle, Norah Phillips, Lindsay Rimington, Claire Mather, Vi Palmer, Linda Mottus.
As a senior photogrammetric draftsman at Nat Map’s Gregory Hall office, Bob Robinson was involved in managing the production of photomaps. Mosaics from aerial photographs were used to produce two series of photomaps, namely: 1:63 360 (1 mile to 1 inch) scale and 1:253 440 (4 miles to 1 inch) scale. The purpose of both photomap series was to facilitate the early distribution of available topographic information as a base for geological, soil, timber, aeronautical, geographical, and other types of maps. Both series were produced from aerial photography captured at a nominal 1:50 000 scale using mainly Fairchild K17 cameras.
By 1955 some 200 photomaps in each of the two series had been produced. By 1960, about 75 per cent of the Australian mainland had been covered by photomaps. For more detailed information on Natmap’s photomap series please refer to Wise (2019 A).
The program to produce photomaps at 1:253 440 scale from semi-controlled shingle mosaics commenced in 1950. This series of photomaps was prepared from unrectified aerial photographs controlled by slotted template plotting that was generally based on astronomical control points. Photomaps in this series were annotated with cultural detail including roads, railways, towns, and river names etc. The area covered by each photomap in this series was bounded by 1.5° of longitude and 1° of latitude. The size of each of these photomaps was 30 inches by 24 inches.
The 1:63 360 scale photomap series was produced over selected map areas using unrectified aerial photo shingle mosaics. The area covered by each of these photomaps was bounded by 30 minutes of longitude and 15 minutes of latitude. The size of each photomap in this series was 30 inches by 40 inches.
Rialto Building 1959-1965
In 1959 Nat Map’s Melbourne office relocated from Gregory Hall to the Rialto Building at 497 Collins Street towards the western end of the CBD. Nat Map’s Melbourne office was to remain at the Rialto Building until April 1977 when it relocated for the last time to 280 Thomas Street Dandenong. Nat Map named the Dandenong office Ellery House after geodetic surveyor and Victorian Government Astronomer Robert Lewis John Ellery (1827-1908).
While at the Rialto Bob Robinson’s promotion to the newly created position of Senior Drafting Officer, Grade 2 was promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 13 July 1961. This was one of four such new positions where each incumbent was to take charge of a section involved in photogrammetric map compilation under the supervision, control and direction of newly promoted Chief Drafting Officer Byrne Goodrick. The other three newly promoted Senior Drafting Officers, Grade 2 were: Dave Hocking, Bob Foster, and Alan Thomson.
Robbie worked at Nat Map’s Rialto office from 1959 until 1965 when he was promoted to an Assistant Chief Drafting Officer position in Canberra.
Nat Mapper Carl McMaster (Nat Map/AUSLIG 1962-1993) recently recalled that Robbie was a drafting section leader at the Rialto when Carl joined Nat Map in mid-1962. Carl also recalled Robbie working on uncontrolled aerial photography mosaics in the Rialto around 1965. These particular mosaics were for mineral exploration in the Northern Territory.
Bob Robinson with other senior staff at Nat Map’s Rialto office circa mid-1960s.
Back row L-R: Tim Tyler, Ed Laos, Fred Adamec, John Jenkins.
Front row L-R: Alan Thomson, Dave Hocking, Byrne Goodrick, Bob Robinson.
The last 17 years of Bob Robinson’s Nat Map career were spent at the Division’s offices in Canberra, including a five-year period in Queanbeyan. Robbie’s promotion to the position of Assistant Chief Drafting Officer, Grade 2, Third Division (Position No 83) was promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 7 March 1968. This position was within Nat Map’s Map Production Branch in Canberra. As Assistant Chief Drafting Officer Bob’s stated duties were to direct and co-ordinate the work of the Topographic Mapping Section; prepare job instructions; and carry out evaluation of control and reference material used in map production.
Initially in Canberra, between 1968 and 1976, Robbie worked from Nat Map’s headquarters in Derwent House at 28 University Avenue on the corner of Marcus Clarke Street on the City’s west side.
Living in Canberra 1968-1994
According to a 1968 electoral roll entry Robbie initially moved alone to Canberra to take up his promotion to Assistant Chief Drafting Officer in the Map Production Branch. On that roll Robbie was listed as residing at Lawley House (in Brisbane Avenue Barton adjacent to Telopea Park).
Lawley House had opened in 1949 as part of a network of hostels built to deal with the accommodation shortage for public servants relocating to Canberra from interstate. Lawley House is now part of the Australian Police College.
Robbie’s first Canberra residence Lawley House in Brisbane Avenue Barton seen here in the early 1950s. Richard Charles Strangman (1895-1969) image, National Library of Australia Call Number PIC/8437/29
Most likely Robbie’s wife Coral had to deal with the closing up and sale of their Rosanna residence and their daughters’ education needs etc before moving to Canberra with the rest of their family. In a 1972 electoral roll entry Robbie and Coral resided at 72 Barada Crescent Aranda; about 2.5 kilometres south east of Canberra’s Belconnen town centre. Barada Crescent was to remain the family home at least until the early 1980s.
In the early 1970s some of the Robinsons’ across the road neighbours were Con and Anne Veenstra who rented in Aranda until their own home in Hawker was built. Robbie and Con most likely first met in the Rialto Building in Melbourne after Con joined Nat Map as a surveyor in 1965. Con Veenstra went on to become the Director of National Mapping from 1981 to 1987.
The last publicly searchable electoral roll which was for 1980 listed Bob and Coral Robinson as residing at 72 Barada Crescent Aranda. However, their marriage was known to have broken down by the early 1980s. According to a November 1994 probate notice Robbie’s last place of residence was at 12 Barlow Street Scullin; it was a neat townhouse next to a park about 3 kilometres north west of Canberra’s Belconnen town centre (Calvert, 1994).
Between 1976 to 1981, Robbie worked in Nat Map’s headquarters office that had relocated to Morisset House at 7 Morisset Street Queanbeyan. The Australian Government Gazette of 28 July 1977 promulgated Bob Robinson’s promotion to Chief Draftsman, Grade 2, Third Division, (Position No 1942) in Nat Map’s Series Mapping Branch then in Queanbeyan. In this position Bob’s stated duties were to direct and co-ordinate the work of the Series Mapping Branch and carry out associated liaison with the Topographic Office, the Division's contractors and other mapping authorities.
Cameron Offices 1981-1985
Between 1981 and his retirement in 1985 Robbie worked at Nat Map’s headquarters office in Unit 3 of the Cameron Offices in Chandler Street Belconnen; Nat Map had relocated its headquarters from Queanbeyan to there. Bob Robinson became the fourth distinguished cartographer to lead Nat Map’s cartographic activities.
Edward Percival Ted Bayliss FRGS (1887-1957) was Nat Map’s first Chief Cartographer and held that position from 1947 until his retirement in 1950. Ted Bayliss FRGS was succeeded as Chief Cartographer by William James Bill Sear B Ec (1900-1986) who was Chief Cartographer from 1950 to 1965. Byrne Ernest Goodrick MBE FAIC (1921-2001) joined Nat Map in Melbourne in 1949. Byrne commenced his second period of duty in Canberra in 1965 as Chief Cartographer following the retirement of Bill Sear from that position. Following a reorganisation in 1977, Byrne continued to lead Nat Map’s cartographic activities as Chief Executive Officer, Cartography (Class 11) and retired from that position on 28 March 1984.
In the Cameron Offices, Bob Robinson succeeded Byrne Goodrick as Nat Map’s Chief Executive Officer, Cartography. Bob’s promotion to that position was promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 23 August 1984.
As Chief Executive Officer, Cartography (Class 11) Bob’s formal duties were to lead the Cartographic Group of the Division of National Mapping. The Group was involved in the cartographic production of topographic, thematic, bathymetric and special purposes maps, the Atlas of Australian Resources and the Atlas of Population and Housing. Maps and atlases were produced by conventional and computer assisted methods.
The main functions of the Cartographic Group in August 1984 were to:
· Produce and publish topographic maps at 1:100 000, 1:250 000 and 1:1 million scales
· Produce and publish bathymetric maps at 1:250 000 scale
· Produce thematic maps of Australia at various scales
· Produce and publish the Atlas of Australian Resources
· Prepare field maps for the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ quinquennial Census of Population and Housing
· Prepare specialised maps for client departments
· Undertake the investigation, development and operation of digital map production within Nat Map.
In August 1984 under Chief Executive Officer Bob Robinson, Nat Map’s Cartographic Group comprised the following Branches:
· Geographic Branch (under Geoff Parkinson)
· Series Mapping Branch (under Volker Zimmerman)
· Thematic Mapping Branch (under Jim Malone)
· Digital Mapping Branch (under Drew Clarke).
Bob Robinson joined the Australian Institute of Cartographers as an Associate Member in January 1953. The proposer and seconder of Bob’s application for membership were John Dunstan (Joe) Lines (1920-2001) and William Alan (Alan) Thomson, both of whom went on to become Assistant Directors in charge of Nat Map’s Melbourne office. In April 1955 Bob Robinson’s membership of the Australian Institute of Cartographers was upgraded from Associate to Member.
In December 1954, Bob’s joint paper Application of Shoran to Australian Mapping, was published in Cartography, the journal of the Australian Institute of Cartographers. The paper was written with George Robert Lindsay (Rim) Rimington (1908-1992) Nat Map’s chief topographic surveyor and Florence Edward (Ted) McCarthy supervising geophysicist with the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics.
The paper reported on the results of the first Australian application of Shoran radar technology for mapping control during a 1954 project over the Pine Creek 1:253 440 (1 inch to 4 miles) scale map sheet area in the Northern Territory. Accurate planimetric maps were required as a base for prospectors’ charts at a scale of one mile to an inch. These charts depicted radioactive anomalies obtained from airborne scintillometer surveys conducted by the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
The airborne equipment, including Shoran, was mounted in the Bureau of Mineral Resources’ Dakota C-47A aircraft (VH-BUR) operated by Trans Australia Airlines. Two Shoran vehicle-borne responders provided fixed ground control. The Shoran units were loaned by the Radiophysics Laboratory of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Sydney. While of dubious quality for systematic topographic mapping, the project yielded better results than could be expected with a comparable density of astronomical fixes. The cost in time, manpower and money of regular ground survey methods of higher accuracy would have been prohibitive in the type of country where the project was undertaken.
(Coincidently, Shoran was first operationally deployed in December 1944 as a bomber guidance system by United States Army Air Force aircraft operating out of the Foggia airfield complex in southern Italy. Bob Robinson was stationed in the same area with 458 Squadron RAAF during January 1945.)
Soon after his arrival in Canberra in 1968 Bob Robinson took up sailing on Lake Burley Griffin; apparently he was quite an avid sailor. His level of boat handling expertise indicated he had prior small boat experience. Over his following years in Canberra, Bob was a successful sailor as well as a member of the Canberra Yacht Club at Yarralumla. Bob also served the Club in management roles including as Rear Commodore. At the Canberra Yacht Club Bob was joined by other Nat Mappers including: John Yarra (1922-2012-who had joined Nat Map as a draftsman in 1951) and Hans Haalebos (who had joined Nat Map as photographer in 1965). Another fellow Nat Mapper Trevor Imhoff (who had joined Nat Map as a drafting officer in July 1969) recently recalled sailing on Lake Burley Griffin with Bob Robinson Bob in that year.
Bob Robinson was involved with several classes of yachts while in Canberra including NS14s, 505s and Flying Fifteens. The NS14 or Northbridge Senior 14 is a 1960 design sailing dinghy that measures 14 feet in length. It was introduced at the Northbridge Sailing Club on Sydney’s lower north shore. The 505 is an international class dinghy named from its 5.05 metre or 16.5 feet length. It was designed in the early 1950s as high performance two-person dinghy with a spinnaker and a trapeze for the crew. The Flying Fifteen is a 20‑foot two person keelboat designed by Britain’s Uffa Fox CBE in 1947. A Flying Fifteen was given as a wedding present to Philip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh and the then Princess Elizabeth in November 1947.
Former Canberra Yacht Club Commodore Peter Forster had a long association with the Club and recently recalled that at one stage Robbie had built his own NS14 sailing dinghy. Peter is seen on the right in the image below of 1974‑1975 Canberra Yacht Club Flag Officers. Peter’s unpublished 1994 obituary for Robbie is provided in the Appendix.
Canberra Yacht Club Flag Officers 1974-75. L-R: Commodore Peter Forster, Vice Commodore John Yarra, Rear Commodore Bob Robinson, and
Club Captain Alan Edwards. Image supplied by Peter Forster.
Nat Map retirement 1985
After serving with Nat Map since 31 August 1948, Bob Robinson retired as Chief Executive Officer, Cartography at 60 years of age on 10 July 1985. Following Bob’s retirement James Stanley (Jim) Malone was promoted to Chief Executive Officer, Cartography. (Jim Malone retired on 25 February 1994.)
A retirement function for Robbie was held in the Canberra Yacht Club at Lotus Bay Yarralumla. The function was well attended and Nat Map’s Colin Kimber was the master of ceremonies. A few images from Bob Robinson’s retirement function are provided below.
Colin Kimber presenting Robbie with his farewell card July 1985.
Image supplied by John Payne.
Bob Robinson giving his retirement address at the Canberra Yacht Club July 1985.
Image supplied by John Payne.
L-R: Laurie McLean and Klaus Leppert at Robbie’s retirement function July 1985.
Image supplied by John Payne.
On Tuesday 4 October 1994, Bob Robinson died suddenly from a heart attack when he was out on the street. He was 69 years of age. Bob was survived by his four daughters Marian, Laurel, Gail and Beverly and by his sons-in-law Jim, John and Robert. Bob was also survived by 12 grandchildren: Angela, Nicholas, Andrew, Anthony, Christopher, Jenni, Michael, Tim, Adam, Amie, James and Cameron. Bob Robinson’s funeral service was held at the Norwood Park Crematorium in Bellenden Street Mitchell on Friday 7 October 1994; the service commenced at 2:00 pm. Afterwards the ashes of Bob’s remains were placed in the Dry Watercourse area at Norwood Park. Bob’s funeral arrangements were conducted by Tobin Brothers of Belconnen.
Among the mourners at Bob’s funeral service were former Nat Map colleagues and Canberra Yacht Club members. Tributes to Bob Robinson from the Canberra Yacht Club are provided in the Appendix.
Bob Robinson made his last Will on 19 June 1982. In that document Robbie appointed his son-in-law James Anthony Calvert as executor. Circa 1972 Jim Calvert (who operated as a licensed electrician between 1971 and 2014) married Bob and Coral Robinson’s second daughter Laurel Margaret (who worked as a clerk in the 1970s and early 1980s).
During the research and preparation of this article the following people generously provided assistance:
· Murray de Plater, former Nat Map chief cartographer*
· Peter Forster, former commodore Canberra Yacht Club*
· Hans Haalebos, former Nat Map photographer-in-charge*
· Trevor Imhoff, former Nat Map draftsman*
· Bill Kitson, former senior curator of the Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, Brisbane
· Bob Lack PSM, former general manager, State Land Administration, Department of Lands, Queensland
· Karen McLean, daughter of the author (who proof read some early drafts)
· Carl McMaster, former Nat Map senior surveyor and later manager of the Australian Centre for Remote Sensing
· Kaye Nardella, senior curator of the Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, Brisbane
· John Payne, former Nat Map senior executive officer
· Paul Wise OAM, founder, operator, and editor-in-chief of the XNatmap website.
The author gratefully acknowledges the kind assistance provided by these people. Assistance from people denoted by * was kindly arranged through John Payne.
Anonymous (undated), Eric Absalom Loney, an entry on The AIF Project; accessed from the University of New South Wales Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy website at: https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=179038
Anonymous (undated A), Hangar at Hooton Park Aerodrome, Bebington, Merseyside; an entry on the Historic England website, accessed at: https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/hangar-at-hooton-park-aerodrome-bebington-9016
Anonymous (undated B), Rank, an entry on the Australian War Memorial website; accessed at:
Anonymous (undated C), Somers RAAF Camp; an entry in the Victorian Heritage Database, assessed from the Heritage Council of Victoria website at: https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/126114
Anonymous (undated D), Vickers Wellington, an entry of the BAE Systems Heritage section of the BAE Systems website; accessed at: https://www.baesystems.com/en/heritage/vickers-wellington
Anonymous (undated E), Leigh Light; an article on the Military section of the wikia.org website, accessed at: https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Leigh_light
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Vale Bob Robinson
Robbie, as he was known affectionately to Canberra Yacht Club members, departed this world on 4 October 1994 after a fatal heart attack. Several Club members attended his funeral on 6 October 1994.
Bob Robinson was a contributor to the CYC, and to sailing in Canberra, in numerous ways, and over a period of many years. In more recent years, we remember Bob and his good mate, the late Dot Fletcher, for their regular enjoyment of the jazz concerts at the Club and, as long as 20 years ago. Bob was Rear Commodore (House) in 1973/74 and 1974/75. He was subsequently an elected member of the General Committee (when we had such an office), at least in 1980/81. He was the official starter for the 505 National championships in January 1982 (I well remember him ribbing me for my inability to handle my 505 in the strong wind conditions that prevailed in some heats in that series). On the last occasion on which the Flying 15 Nationals were sailed in Canberra, Bob devoted a good deal of time to filming and putting together a most informative video of the series.
But the best epitaph to Robbie comes from his former skipper of many years, Jim Beare. Jim and Bob sailed in the Flying 15 Lively Lady for several years from 1974. Jim says that it proved a most enjoyable and successful partnership providing us with many happy hours both on the water and in the Club house. Previously, Bob had raced an NS14 on the lake, and Jim believes that he had been messing around in boats since an early age but in 1974 he was happy to move into what he called a more stately way of living (in a Flying 15) and they teamed up together.
Jim continues: In heavy weather my deficiencies as a skipper sometimes brought the most alarming situations, but our competitiveness took us to the starting line on any day that sailing was permitted. So it was that Bob would return to shore with bloodied hands and shins. But all this was nothing to his smile of triumph at the end of a race well sailed. I never knew him to demur, or hesitate, because of weather conditions.
On top of his previously proven abilities as a skipper, Bob now built a formidable reputation as a crew on the Flying 15, and in all weathers. His jib and spinnaker handling were always expert, and in close round the marks sailing his calling of other boats' positions was absolutely reliable. So I was left to watch the jib luff and the mark only. It was perfect crewing and Bob was made CYC Crewman of the Year for his efforts in the 1976/77 season.
Bob's interests were not limited to sailing only. He had a continuing concern for, and interest in, all Club activities. His good cheer and company around the bar after sailing capped off the perfect day and made him a popular figure among his many friends. And it was my pleasure, and privilege, to sail with him.
(In relation to the above comments it is worth reminding readers that Jim Beare has muscular dystrophy, a physical condition which restricted his movement around the boat and limited his capacity to adjust the sheets.)
Canberra Yacht Club
(Peter Forster has had a long association with the Canberra Yacht Club as a sailor, member, and flag officer.)
Bob Robinson, or Robbie as he was affectionately known, was an active member of the Canberra Yacht Club for longer than most of us can remember. Although he had probably been messing about in boats from an early age including in NS14s, he came to prominence during his partnership with Jim Beare in the Flying Fifteen, Lively Lady. Jim had muscular dystrophy, a condition which limited his mobility on the boat, and in the 1976-77 season Robbie received the Club's Crewman of the Year award.
Robbie also contributed to the management of the Club as Rear Commodore from 1973 to 1975 and as a member of General Committee in the early 1980s. In more recent years we remember Robbie and his good mate, the late Dot Fletcher, as regulars at jazz on Sundays.
Edited extract from The Canberra Yachtsman, July 1995, page 6.