Robert Adam was born in early 1896 in Littleton, West Lavington, Wiltshire. He was the youngest boy of nine children born to Alexander and Agnes Adam.
His parents were Scottish; his father was born in Kincardineshire and his mother in Aberdeenshire.
The children’s birthplaces suggest that the family was moving around the country a lot, no doubt with Alexander’s work as a gamekeeper. In 1887 they were in Sussex, in 1888 in Fifeshire, 1890 Yorkshire, 1892 Kincardineshire, 1894 Surrey, 1896 and 1899 Wiltshire, 1901 and 1904 Berkshire. They were still in Berkshire at Lambourn Woodlands for the 1911 census when Alexander’s two oldest sons were listed as gamekeeper’s assistants. Gamekeeping must have been fairly lucrative; Alexander died on 30 September 1913, at Westminster Hospital, leaving £1387 10s 1d in his will.
Life in Datchet
We don’t know Robert’s occupation but he may have become a gamekeeper too, like his father and brothers. He was living in Datchet when he enlisted so there is a possibility he was breeding and protecting game – and detering poachers – on the Ditton Park estate for the Montagus of Beaulieu. He arrived in the village sometime after the 1911 census, perhaps not long after his father’s death.
Joining the army
Robert enlisted in Windsor. He trained with the 2nd Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry as Private 22167, then transferred to the 15th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment as Private 30128.
Although we don’t have the date when Robert enlisted, by looking at other soldiers’ records with similar OBLI regimental numbers who also later transferred to the RWR, it would seem that he probably enlisted in November 1915, age 19. This may have been under the Derby Scheme.
The 2nd OBLI was mobilised in February 1916 and sent to France in June 1916. The men then transferred to the 15th Royal Warwickshires at the beginning of September 1916, as part of the 13th Brigade, 5th Division.
Battle of the Somme: Guillemont and Falfemont Farm
Robert was killed on Sunday 3 September 1916 when the battalion attacked Falfemont Farm during the Battle of the Somme. The battalion suffered 231 casualties that day.
Robert’s great, great nephew, Matt Spring, wrote on the Great War Forum that he recalled his grandmother showing him a newspaper cutting which quoted a letter to the family from one of Robert’s NCOs. The extract explained that Robert had not long been in theatre when a shell fell into his trench, killing him and the other men with him. Some sources claimed that the barrage fell short, hitting British troops rather than the German positions.
The attack on the farm was part of the Battle of Guillemont, 3-6 September 1916. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website includes information about this battle: “Throughout late July and August 1916, Guillemont defied repeated British attacks. These bloody encounters led only to partial and temporary occupations of shattered ruins as determined German counter-attacks and continuous artillery fire forced later withdrawals.
“Another major attack was planned for late August, though heavy rain delayed the operations until 3 September. Preliminary bombardments began on Saturday 2 September and, at 8.50am on Sunday morning, 5th Division [Robert’s division] advanced towards the protective strongpoint of Falfemont Farm to the south-east of the village.
“The main assault on Guillemont itself was made by 20th (Light) Division, two battalions of which crept forward before zero hour and took the Germans by surprise. At noon the main line, including a brigade of the 16th (Irish) Division, advanced and after much difficult fighting (especially near the quarry and station) Guillemont was secured and progress made several hundred yards eastwards.
“Although 5th Division failed to take the Farm, units did break into the German second line position. Next day saw 5th Division attempt advances towards Leuze Wood including another attack on Falfemont Farm which was not captured until early the following morning.”
Memorial to the missing of the Somme
Robert was awarded the Victory and British War Medals. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, the memorial to the missing of the Somme.