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Frome’s WW1 centenary commemorations

The Memorial theatre soldier

The Memorial theatre soldier

THE centenary of the outbreak of World War 1 will be commemorated  on Monday 4th August this year, and around the country huge numbers of people are involved, marking this momentous date with a series of special events and activities.

Here in Frome things are no different, but of course, as often is the case with Frome, there is a slightly more intriguing story to tell than most.

Some years ago, whilst cleaning out the old Singer factory at Handlemaker Road, the team decommissioning the site came across a statue. This dusty old statue, which had been long forgotten, crammed in a disused garage behind an old caravan, turned out to be a cast of the WW1 soldier Charlie Robbins, an employee of Singer.

This statue had been almost entirely forgotten until the 1970s at which point it took pride of place at the new Cork Street location of Singer, where it was on display until 1999.

On Sunday 3rd August at 3.00pm, the statue of Charlie Robbins will be dedicated in its new location at the Memorial Garden outside the Memorial Theatre.

This symbolic move to the war memorial has been made possible after months of negotiation between the Frome Town Council, the Royal British Legion, the Memorial Theatre and Frome Museum and TYCO Ltd (owners of Singers), and an agreement has been made for the long term loan of their WW1 soldier.

Set on a plinth, it will incorporate the significance of the current memorial stone, that was hewn from Foster Yeoman quarry, and which itself represents local industry, and the sacrifice of those who left and never returned, and for the families left behind.

With TYCO’s kind agreement with Frome Town Council, this statue will become the town’s new war memorial located outside of the Memorial Theatre and will form the centrepiece of Frome’s official commemoration of the outbreak of WW1. This once forgotten statue will become the centrepiece for remembrance in Frome, although very little is known about this soldier who modelled for the piece all those years ago.

Charlie Robbins and his brother James both worked at J. W. Singer & Son’s and both decided to sign up in 1914. They both worked for the Royal Gloucester regiment. Charlie was with the 2nd/5th Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment, serving with ‘D’ Company. Starting off as Lance Corporal no. 22385, he was promoted to Sergeant.

Charlie, like most solders, would have seen a number of atrocious sights during WW1, his brother, in fact, lost a leg and a huge number of their fellow solders lost their lives during this fateful time.

Both Charlie and his brother returned home to Frome after the Armistice. As far as can be found,  both men resumed their work at J. W. Singer & Son’s and, at some point, Charlie was chosen as the model for the Bronze cast of the First World War soldier, but no one knows why he specifically was selected.

So the question still remains: Who was Charlie Robbins? Frome Museum and The Family History Society have been tirelessly investigating this very question and yet they cannot seem to find any living relatives, or indeed any one who can tell why Charlie was chosen to be immortalised in bronze.

Research suggests Charlie remained unmarried and died a ripe old age in 1981, but that is where this research draws a blank.

Surely there must be someone in Frome who remembers him, who may have worked with him, lived close to him, whose grandparents were friends with him even.

Frome Town Council would love anyone who knows of Charlie to come forward, to help them in uncovering the true Charlie Robbins. If you have any information on Charlie Robbins please get in touch with Laura at Frome Town Council on poultonl@frome