Captain Robert Cuthbert Grieve vc, mc

37th (Victoria) Battalion AIF

Robert Grieve VC

Captain Robert Cuthbert Grieve VC, MC. (AWM H00038)

Born: 19th June 1889 at Brighton, Melbourne.

Died: 4th October 1957 due to cardiac failure.

Buried: Springvale Cemetery, Melbourne.

Education: Caulfield Grammar School and Wesley College, Victoria, Australia.

Robert Grieve was born at Brighton, Melbourne on 19th June 1889. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a Private on 9th June 1915. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 37th Battalion (Victoria) in January 1916, promoted to lieutenant in May 1916, and, after training in England, was promoted to captain in France in February 1917.

On 7th June 1917 during the Battle of Messines Captain Robert Grieve was commanding A Company, 37th Battalion. During the second phases of the assault, as Captain Grieve's Company advanced east of Messines, it was held up by this pillbox as they attempted to file through a gap in the German wire. Within minutes half of the company, including all its officers except Captain Grieve had been mown down. Realising that they would all be annihilated unless the German machine gun was dealt with, Robert Grieve set off to silence the gun. For his actions on 7 June 1917 Captain Robert Cuthbert Grieve was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). His citation reads:1

"For most conspicuous bravery.

During an attack on the enemy's position, in the face of heavy artillery and machine gun fire, and after all his officers had been wounded and his company had suffered very heavy casualties, Capt Grieve located two hostile machine guns which were holding up his advance. He then, single-handed, under continuous fire from these two machine gun, succeeded in bombing and killing the two crews, reorganised the remnants of his company and gained his original, objective.

Capt Grieve, by his utter disregard of danger, and his coolness in mastering a very difficult position, set a splendid example, and when he finally fell wounded, the position had been secured and the few remaining enemy were in full flight."

Captain Grieve's award of the VC is unusual in that it was conferred on him following the recommendation of his men, as his fellow officers, none of whom had witnessed his feat, had been killed or injured.

Following the silencing of the machine gun Robert Grieve was severely wounded in the shoulder by a sniper's bullet whilst signalling to his men to come forward. He was subsequently evacuated to England and on recovery returned to the 37th Battalion in October. However, he subsequently suffered from acute trench nephritis and double pneumonia, and was invalided back to Australia in May 1918. On 7th August 1918, at Scots Church, Sydney, he married Sister May Isabel Bowman of the Australian Army Nursing Service who had nursed him during his illness.

Following the First World War Robert Grieve served in the Militia as a Captain. He established the business of Grieve, Gardner & Co., a soft-goods warehouse company located in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. He held the position of Managing Director of that company until his death from cardiac failure on 4th October 1957. He was buried with full military honours in Springvale Cemetery and his VC was presented by his family to Wesley College in 1959.

1. The London Gazette, Supplement 30215, page 7905, dated 31st July 1917.

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Last updated: 16th December 2018