Robert William Spong

Rank Lieutenant
Service No Unknown
Date of Death 30/10/18
Age 31
Regiment/Service Royal Air Force
Cemetery Shorncliffe Millitary Cemetery. It is located 2 miles west of Folkestone, Kent, and contains 471 1st World War burials, more than 300 are Canadian, as a number of Canadian military facilities were centred there, including some hospitals. Guy's Hospital Memorial, London.    

 

Robert was born in early 1889 in Finchley to Henry George Spong (b.1850) and Emily Kate Spong, nee Tabernacle (b.1864), who were married in Fulham in 1885. He had two brothers, John (b.1887) and Victor (1894-1976), though John sadly died in childhood. There is some uncertainty as to his middle name, though more documents ascribe ‘Arthur’ rather than ‘William’. 

At the time of the 1891 and 1901 Censuses, the family were living at Gothic Cottage, Gravel Hill, Finchley. His father is listed as being a manufacturer’s agent. Sometime thereafter, Robert was a student at Portsmouth Municipal College, which opened in 1908. At the time of the 1911 Census, Robert was living with his brother, Victor, at 138, The Grove, Hammersmith, having entered Guy’s Hospital as a dental student in 1910, whilst Victor was a bank clerk.

Records from Guy’s Hospital indicate that Robert proved to be an able student and gained a well-deserved popularity amongst all - both medical and dental. He was a keen sportsman, playing for the hospital in Association Football. He gained his hospital blue in 1911-1912 and played several times for the United Hospitals, after which he forsook football for the Rugby Code. He was also a good long-distance swimmer and 100 yards sprinter.

When war broke out, Robert had passed the first half of his final exams but immediately joined the Middlesex (City of London) Yeomanry, soon earning corporal's stripes and a commission. He then took a machine gun course at Grantham and was attached to Machine Gun Corps Cavalry in Ireland and was with them through the Easter rising in Dublin in 1916. Thereafter, he went to France where he served for some time before coming home in 1917 to take the second half of his dental finals. He then returned to a Home Station, but owing to illness he was demobilised in October 1917. For a while he carried on his dental work, but feeling he was fit enough he obtained a Dental Commission in the RAF. Thereafter, Robert worked at the Queen’s Hospital, Frognal Avenue, Sidcup, Kent. It opened in 1917 and soon became the central military hospital for reconstructive surgery following facial and jaw injuries, not only for the UK, but for all the Imperial Expeditionary Forces. One obituary stated that, ‘at Frognal he won, from patients, staff and all who knew him, affection and respect’.

While serving in the RAF, Robert died of pneumonia and heart failure following influenza, a vicitim of the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, which killed more people that died in the 1st World War.  At the time of his death, his address was 19 Marion Road, Southsea, and his father’s address was 4 Wilson Grove, Southsea. His estate was valued at £43 0s 5d which was left to his father.

His maternal cousins Guy William Truman and Harold George Tabernacle also died in the war and are remembered on the St Paul’s memorial.