Warden, Robert John (Bobbie)
No. D/SSX 15810, HMS Matabele, Royal Navy
Killed on active service on Saturday 17 January 1942 (aged 26)
No known grave
Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon, England (Panel 66 Column 3)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Robert John (Bobbie) Warden was the eldest son of Robert John and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Warden (nee Hyles) of 62 Greenwell Street, Newtownards. Robert John Warden Senior worked as a yarn carrier and he and Elizabeth Hyles were married on 27 September 1913 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark). Robert Warden (aged 19) was from Newtownards. Lizzie Hyles (aged 18) from Newtownards was a daughter of John Hyles, a labourer. During the Great War, Robert John Warden was on active service with the Royal Irish Rifles and the Northumberland Fusiliers.
Robert John and Lizzie Warden (nee Hyles) had at least six children:
Eleanor Jane (born 23 February 1914 in Church Terrace, Newtownards)
Robert John (born 16 September 1915 in Movilla Street, Newtownards)
John (born 2 August 1917 in Movilla Street, Newtownards)
Margaret (Maggie, born 16 December 1918 in Movilla Street, Newtownards)
William (born 16 November 1920 in Movilla Street, Newtownards)
Robert John (Bobbie) Warden was the husband of Josephine Sarah Warden of 61 Gordon Terrace, Scrabo Road, Newtownards; Robert John Warden and Josephine Sarah Magreechan were married on 2 February 1940, and they had a son named Roy. Roy was about a year-old when his father died.
It was noted in the Press that Robert John (Bobbie) Warden was a keen supporter of Ards Football Club.
Robert John Warden joined the Royal Navy around 1935 and two of his brothers, John, and Thomas, served with the Royal Ulster Rifles.
During the Second World War Able Seaman Robert John Warden (No. D/SSX 15810) served aboard HMS Matabele. This ship was a Tribal-class destroyer built by the Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Greenock, Scotland and commissioned in January 1939.
In January 1942, along with HMS Somali, HMS Matabele formed a screen for the cruiser HMS Trinidad in Convoy PQ-8 sailing from Iceland to Murmansk in Russia. On 17 January 1942 HMS Matabele was hit by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-454 and she sank almost immediately. Only two of around 240 men aboard survived; they were picked up by the minesweeper HMS Harrier. Many who were able to leave the ship died in the ice-cold water before rescue was possible and Able Seaman Robert John Warden was one of those who died.
Various family members placed Killed in Action notices in the Newtownards Chronicle – his wife, son, and mother-in-law; his father, mother, brothers, and sisters; his aunts Jane Shields and Minnie McCullough; his sister and brother-in-law Margaret and John Montgomery and nephew John of 66 Castlereagh Street, Belfast and his aunt Letitia Hyles of 92 Movilla Street, Newtownards. There was a notice too from the officers and members of Greenwell Street Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1363, Newtownards. In subsequent years his family placed Our Heroes – In Memoriam notices.
These notices contained the verses:
Sleep on; there is nought now on earth that can wake thee,
No cruel guns’ roar can disturb thy repose,
Nor bursting of shells can now overtake thee,
Save the call of the Trumpet when night draws to a close.
Until that morn dawns we are patiently waiting,
While the past happy memories evergreen shall remain,
And as years grow in number the anchor holds firmer,
Till hand shall clasp hand, for to part ne’er again.
Short was his life, our darling son,
But peaceful is his rest;
Mother misses you most of all,
Because she loves you best.
Just as manhood days were dawning
On the land he loved so well,
He was taken from amongst us
To his heavenly home to dwell.
Somewhere abroad our brother fell,
Beneath the roar of shot and shell,
When days are dark and friends are few,
Dear Robert, it’s then we’ll long for you.
What happy hours we once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still.
Not just today, but every day,
In silence we remember.
Thoughts drift back to days gone past;
Life moves on, but memories last;
With tender love and deep regret,
True hearts that loved you can never forget.
Taken away in his early youth,
Taken from those he loved,
From serving his King on earth,
Below to serve his Great King above.
Greater love hath no man than this,
That a man lay down his life for his friends.
A silent thought, a hidden tear
Keeps his memory ever dear.
Able Seaman Robert John Warden (No. D/SSX 15810) was 26 when he died, and he is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in Devon and on Newtownards and District War Memorial.