E.Robinson (b.1894): Life & Labour

Advertisment for the Post Office Rifles (c.1915)
Advertisment for the Post Office Rifles (c.1915)

 

Throughout E. Robinson’s autobiography I Remember, the theme of labour and the author’s working life is a prominent theme. Robinson talks in depth about all the job roles he has undertaken through his working years, starting at his earliest job as an errand boy for a local shop, to his rise up the hierarchy at the Post Office.  His working life shows his drive and commitment to creating a better lifestyle for his children, than the one he had in his younger years. However, his childhood and working life began very much on hardship, due to the economic slump at the turn of the century and he never begrudges his father for the conditions he was raised in.

Robinson’s first step into the world of employment was not necessarily through choice. Like many families during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Robinson’s were struck with severe poverty, due to the lack of trade in the cab business, the field which his father worked within. This led to Robinson having to leave education and find a job, so he could help finance the necessities for his family. He journeyed through several roles within the South London area, ranging from an errand boy for a local shop, to a messenger for a company who produced artificial limbs. But it was at the Post Office where he found his true path.

Although his mother allowed him “pocket money” from his wage, Robinson writes how he generally did not spend this allowance on himself, but bought food and clothing which were needed, and also saved large amounts to give back to his mother in times of desperation.  Robinson shows a strong relationship with his family and his early working life, which was seen with many young teenagers during the period, as he was willing to sacrifice his academic future to ensure a better wellbeing for his family.

The subject of work is seen as being a very central topic through Robinson’s life, as he speaks about this more than anything else. He never speaks of any form of socializing that he partakes in during his time off, describing very little details in his older years of life outside of the Postal Service. He writes of how he took his job very seriously, which led to his rise up the ranks through his 46 years association with the company, gaining the Imperial Service Award after his retirement.  His constant referral to his working life, and his commitment and loyalty to the

Imperial Service Medal (c.1956)
Imperial Service Medal (c.1956)

Post Office, shows the pride he took in his job.  Before his employment at the Postal Service, Robinson tells of how he moved between different jobs very quickly, as he tried to make a name for himself as a teenage errand boy, stating how these jobs lack enjoyment. However when he began working life at the Post Office, his attitude changed and he became very settled.

The relationship between Robinson and his working life can be seen to have shaped his character and personality, due to his direct and informative tone.  During his time with the Post Office, Robinson was constantly delegated tasks which he had to complete on tight deadlines, or the post would not be shipped out.

Robinson also talks in depth about his time in the Armed Forces, serving through the First World War. The Government appealed for volunteers to sign up, with Robinson applying for positions within the Postal Service regiments in 1915. His original ambition after signing up was to become part of the Royal Engineers; however he was unsuccessful and became part of the Post Office Rifles 1st Battalion.  He was forced to move away from his family and work in Bedfordshire, patrolling the area as a soldier, before being shipped to France to battle of the front line.

His description of the front line trenches is very graphic, detailing the Regiments first action of combat in the war, resulting in either death or injury to around 500 men. Robinson does not speak of his feelings or emotions whilst locked in battle, but focuses more on the detailing of War. He was injured in combat with shrapnel wound to his right ankle, rejoining the battalion 3 weeks later, on the day of his 21st birthday, in the heat on conflict.  However, his close friend suffered a horrific fate. He stood up in the trench where the P.O Rifles were based, as his head went above the trench walls, he was shot through the head by opposition forces.  Robinson also undertook the role of a Lance Corporal within his battalion, leading a group of around 30 men into battle.

An example of a trench in France (c.1915) occupied by German Forces
An example of a trench in France (c.1915) occupied by German Forces

His time within the Army was unfortunately cut short, due to severe injuries he suffered in the field. Robinson was knocked down by an explosion in late 1915, which resulted in him losing his eyesight for 10 days.  After 3 days leave, his health deteriorated dramatically and was forced into hospital. After many examinations by the Army Officials, Robinson was deemed physically unfit to serve and was discharged from the forces.  But on his return to London, his mother had giving all his clothes away, as she didn’t think he would return from the War, showing the harsh realities families faced during the First World War.

After he was relieved of his duties in the Army, Robinson went back to working in the Post Office, where he spent the remainder of his working life, climbing his way up the positional hierarchy.

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