Robert Crawford

Gunner Robert Crawford served with 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery. He saw action across Europe and survived Dunkirk.


Robert Crawford


Gunner Robert Crawford (1473864) served in the 21st Battery, 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery during World War Two. He was born in 1914 in the Shankill area of Belfast, Co. Antrim and was the son of Jane Skillen.

In the 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, he saw action with the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk, France. In December 1939, the regiment occupied themselves with the defence of the port of Le Havre. 21st Battery moved to Arras, deployed there in May 1940. By then, fighting was intense and German tanks and machine guns surrounded Crawford’s battery near St. Valery.

Their heavy anti-aircraft guns destroyed and breech blocks removed, the men retreated. Aiding the infantry with small-arms fire, they made their escape at Dunkirk.

Ships at Dunkirk

Imperial War Museum Photo: C 1720 (Part of the Air Ministry Second World War Official Collection). British ships arrive off the beaches at Dunkirk around 3rd June 1940. Smoke billows in the air from burning oil storage tanks. Copyright Royal Air Force Official Photographer.

On arriving home, the gunners took the task of defending against the blitz. After training in Blackpool, they departed for Coventry, Plymouth, and Wolverhampton. By September 1940, the regiment had concentrated on London as enemy attacks intensified. On 2nd October 1940, they helped extinguish around 2,000 incendiary bombs burning the Harrow School.

Remembering Robert Crawford

The gunner died on 13th October 1940 aged 26 years old. On dates between 8th and 16th October 1940, Luftwaffe bombs fell on the regiment’s barracks. Three men died and twelve more sustained injuries in these attacks.

Robert Crawford’s grave is in Glenalina Extension, Section AS, Grave 87 of Belfast City Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Antrim. His headstone bears the inscription:

Manly and brave, his young life he gave. In silence, we remember.

Crawford’s name features of the Roll of Honour of St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, Co. Antrim.