Private Robert Foster Gibson


Robert Foster Gibson was a Freemason and member of Lodge Temperance 2557 which at the time was meeting at the Royal Assembly Rooms, Westgate Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

The hand written entry in the Roll of Honor at the end of the Lodge Temperance 2557 Minute Book reads “Pte. R. F. Gibson, Military Hospital, Colchester, Essex”

It has proved difficult to identify a convincing service or pension record for Robert, so perhaps they are among the 60% of the soldiers’ Service Records irretrievably damaged or lost completely as a result of enemy bombing in 1940. Robert’s WW1 Medal Roll has also proved difficult to identify. We do know that Colchester barracks area in Essex has always been a busy garrison and when the new barracks were built in 1856 a 20 hut hospital complex was built. This was replaced with a fine looking red brick hospital in 1896. Colchester Military Hospital was able to treat about 221 patients in side rooms and eight traditional wards. Perhaps Robert served here, but without knowing his service history it is impossible to say.

Robert was born in Tanfield, the son of Robert and Anne Gibson (nee Godley). They were married in 1869 in Gateshead and had at least thirteen children of which nine survived childhood including:

  • ·         John Thomas (b 1872)
  • ·         Robert Forster (b 18th June 1875)
  • ·         Ann Godley (b 1878)
  • ·         Amelia Tudor Ratcliffe (b 1880)
  • ·         Ethel Isabella (b 1883)
  • ·         Francis William (b 1885)
  • ·         Alfred (b 1887)
  • ·         Septimus (b 1890)
  • ·         Florence Lawson (b 1892)
  • ·         Emiley (b 1893)

In the census taken in April 1911, Robert was an Engine Plane man (coal miner) living with his widowed mother Anne and six of his brothers and sisters at 14, Alexandra Street, Victoria Garesfield, Rowlands Gill. Their home appears to have been a post office and Robert’s sister, Ethel, was the postmistress.

At the Lodge Temperance 2557 meeting held at the Assembly Rooms on the 15th June 1914 Robert was proposed by Bro. Thomas W. Boast and seconded by Bro. A. M. Chapman as a fit and proper person to be made a Freemason. He was a 38 year old Engine Plane worker living at the Post Office, Victoria Garsfield, Rolands Gill. At the meeting of the 20th July a successful ballot was held and he was initiated into the Mysteries and Privileges of Ancient Freemasonry on the 17th August. He was passed to the second or Fellowcraft degree on the 21st September and raised to  the Sublime degree of a Master Mason on the 19th October 1914. There is no record in the minutes that he signed his Grand Lodge certificate.

Robert died in September 1958 at the age of 83.

Robert is commemorated in Newcastle on the North East War Memorial Project website Roll of Honour 1914-18 Lodge Temperance 2557 (NUT254).