Hamilton, Robert George (No. P/SSX 19719)

Hamilton, Robert George (Bobby)

Able Seaman

No. P/SSX 19719, HMS Eagle, Royal Navy

Died as a result of an explosion on Thursday 14 March 1940 (aged 21)

No known grave

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Hampshire, England (Panel 38 Column 3)

Newtownards and District War Memorial

BIOGRAPHY

Robert George Hamilton was born on 9 May 1918 in the townland of Cronston, Newtownards and he was the only son of George and Elizabeth Hamilton (nee McClure) who lived in Cronstown, Newtownards.  George Hamilton from Ballyalicock worked as a labourer and he and Elizabeth McClure from Bowtown were married on 2 October 1911 in Second Newtownards Presbyterian Church.  They had three children:

Robert George (born 9 May 1918)

Matilda

Agnes

Robert George Hamilton was educated at Loughriscouse and Movilla Public Elementary Schools and he joined the Royal Navy when he was 17.  Before that he worked as a labourer in Dickson’s Rose Gardens, Newtownards.  It was reported in the press that he was a school-mate of Marine William Thomas Anderson of Newtownards who was lost in the sinking of HMS Royal Oak on 14 October 1939 and who was described in the press as ‘the first Ards casualty of the war’.

Robert George Hamilton served aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle which was built by Armstrong Whitworth, Newcastle-on-Tyne and commissioned in February 1924.  She had originally been ordered by Chile as the battleship Almirante Cochrane and was later purchased by Britain for conversion to an aircraft carrier.  At the outbreak of the Second World War HMS Eagle was at Singapore and in October 1939 she was part of the force searching for the German Deutschland-class cruiser (pocket battleship) Admiral Graf Spee.  As a result of damage sustained during the Battle of the River Plate on 13 December 1939 the Graf Spee had to be scuttled at Montevideo, Uruguay.  For the first two months of 1940 HMS Eagle was escorting troop transports in the Indian Ocean and on 14 March 1940 she was damaged by an internal explosion in her forward bomb room.  Able Seaman Robert George Hamilton was among 13 ratings who were killed by the explosion and HMS Eagle returned to Singapore for repairs.  On 11 August 1942 HMS Eagle was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-73 in the Mediterranean Sea, some 70 miles south of Cape Salinas, Majorca.

After Robert George Hamilton was killed, the Captain of HMS Eagle wrote in a letter to his mother, ‘he died as he would have wished – on duty’.  His mother placed a Death Notice in the 13 April 1940 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:

We were not there at time of death,

To hear his last faint sigh,

To whisper just one loving word,

Or yet to say good-bye.

Able Seaman Robert George Hamilton (No. P/SSX 19719) was 21 when he died and he is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial in Hampshire and on Newtownards and District War Memorial.

In the 15 March 1941 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle there was an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice and it contained the verse:

We little thought when he left home,

That he would ne’er return,

That he so soon in death would sleep,

And leave us here to mourn.

In the 18 March 1944 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle there was an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice and it contained the verse:

I never can forget the day

When the letter came to say

Your son is dead – all pain is past,

Home to Jesus – Peace at last.

In the 17 March 1945 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle there was an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice and it contained the verse:

A face is from our household gone,

A voice we loved is still,

A chair is vacant in our home,

This world can never fill.