b. 12/01/1894 Glasgow, Scotland. d. 18/04/1968 Glasgow, Scotland.
Robert Downie (1894-1968) was born at 611 Springburn Road, Springburn, Glasgow, Lanarkshire on 12th January 1894. His father was Francis Downie, born in Ireland. He worked as a machine oiler and iron planer at Hyde Park Locomotive Works, Glasgow. His mother was Elizabeth Jane nee Taylor, a factory hand spinner, and they married on Valentine’s Day 1876 at St Andrews RC Chapel, Dundee. Robert came from a huge family with fifteen siblings born between 1876 and 1899. Two of Robert’s brothers, David and Richard were killed during the First World War.
Robert was educated at St Aloysius’ School, Springburn. He was employed at Hyde Park Locomotive Works, as was his father, owned by North British Locomotive Company Ltd, then the largest company of its type in Europe. He enlisted with 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 8th February 1912. On 4th April 1914, Robert married Ivy Louise at Gravesend, Kent where his Battalion was based at the time. They had three children – Robert, Annie and Elizabeth. Sadly, Elizabeth only lived to the age of two.
Robert went with his Battalion to France on 23rd August 1914. On 23rd October 1916 east of Lesboeufs, France, when most of the officers had become casualties, Sergeant Downie, utterly regardless of personal danger and under very heavy fire, organised the attack which had been temporarily checked. At the critical moment he rushed forward shouting "Come on the Dubs!" which had an immediate response and the line rushed forward at this call. Sergeant Downie accounted for several of the enemy and in addition captured a machine-gun, killing the team. Although wounded early in the fight, he remained with his company, giving valuable assistance while the position was being consolidated.
He was presented with a gift of money by the Springburn Branch, United Irish League, on 4th January 1917. He was presented with his VC by King George V at York Cottage, Sandringham on the 8th January 1917. Robert was wounded five times and gassed on several occasions during the war, and was demobilised in March 1919.
Post war, Robert worked for Glasgow Corporation as an electrician on the trams. He served in the Home Guard during the Second World War. In the 1950s he worked the turnstiles at Glasgow Celtic FC. He lived at 33 Carleston Street, Springburn and he died there on 18th April 1968. He was buried in St Kentigern’s Cemetery, Glasgow with his wife and daughter Annie.
In addition to the VC and MM, he was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Defence Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. His medals are held privately.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: ST KENTIGERN'S CEMETERY, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND. SECTION 21, LAIR 506
Robert Downie VC's medal card
War Illustrated, 23rd December 1916
People's Palace, Glasgow (Thomas Stewart)