Lorimer, Robert Lawrie (No. 37731)

Lorimer, Robert Lawrie (Lawrie)

Flying Officer

No. 37731, 1 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Killed in action on Tuesday 14 May 1940 (aged 25)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England (Panel 6)

Rockport School Craigavad

Campbell College Belfast


Robert Lawrie Lorimer was born on 24 June 1914 in Cleveland, Johannesburg, South Africa and he was baptised in St. Patrick’s Church, Cleveland.  He was a son of George Hill Lorimer and Jane (Janie) Lorimer (nee Lawrie), both originally from Ireland although they got married on 3 January 1905 in Cleveland, South Africa.  George Hill Lorimer was a mining engineer in a goldmine on the Rand and he died of pneumonia on 29 May 1916 in Johannesburg.  During the Siege of Kimberley in 1899/1900 George had served as a Private in the Premier Mine Division of Town Guard.

After George Lorimer died, Janie returned to Ireland from South Africa with her two children:

Joan (born 24 July 1909; died 10 July 1994)

Lawrie (born 24 June 1914)

They lived at Craig Royston, Cultra and later in College Gardens, Belfast.  Lawrie’s sister Joan married Lieutenant Noel Montgomery Neely who served with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War (aboard HMS Circe).  Lieutenant Neely was killed on 23 April 1944.

Lawrie Lorimer was educated at Rockport School, Craigavad from 1925 until 1928 and at Campbell College, Belfast from 1928 until 1931.  When he left school, he worked in insurance from 1932 until 1933.  He joined the Royal Ulster Rifles in 1933 and was bought out after three months. He then worked in the motor trade from 1933 until 1935, joined the RAF in 1936 and was commissioned Pilot Officer.  He underwent basic flight training at RAF Brough in Yorkshire and from 1937 until 1939 he served in 87 (F) Squadron at RAF Debden in Essex where he flew Gloster Gladiator aircraft.  He was part of a three-man aerobatic team that performed with the wing tips of their aircraft tied together with bunting.  It is recorded that one of their displays was performed at Villacoublay near Paris.

In 1939 Lawrie Lorimer went to France with 85 Squadron and in 1940 he was with 1 Squadron in Fighter Command when he was killed on 14 May 1940 near Sedan.  He was flying a Hawker Hurricane Mark 1 aircraft (L1676) on a patrol mission when he was shot down in combat.  His body was never recovered, and a short tribute was published in the December 1940 edition of The Campbellian:

‘Lawrie (spelt Laurie in the report) Lorimer as a small boy had an infinite capacity for making a mess of things and getting into scrapes. But he was always eminently likeable. His first few years after leaving school were unsettled: a few months in an insurance office, out of which he walked one afternoon to join the ranks of the Ulster Rifles; two or three months as a private before he was bought out; and then a couple of years as an apprentice in a motor works where, if you believed his own accounts, he spent most of his time dropping irreplaceable nuts into inaccessible places.

Then he obtained a commission in the RAF, and ‘found himself’. When he visited Campbell last spring it was difficult to remember the scatterbrained small boy in the self-assured, clearly competent young officer, second in command of a fighter squadron in France. But the new efficiency had not banished the old charm, that charm which made it so hard to strafe him at school and so delightful to spend an afternoon with him in a small boat on his native waters of Belfast Lough’.

Flying Officer Robert Lawrie Lorimer (No. 37731) was 25 when he was killed, and he is commemorated in Rockport School and in Campbell College.  His mother Janie lived at 8 Diamond Gardens, Finaghy and she died in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast on 2 June 1943 (aged 72).  Janie Lorimer was buried in Belfast City Cemetery (Grave J1. 66).