World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                       Cecil Robinson 

Cecil Robinson - Winston Churchill’s Driver

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Cecil Robinson, Winston Churchill, General Whittaker, Miss Mary Churchill, General Montgomery, Mr Atlee
Location of story: Sheffield, Purbright, Chatsworth House, Houses of Parliament, Chequers, Yalta, Berlin
Unit name: Royal Army Service Corps
Background to story: Army

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Geraldine Roberts of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mrs Edna Robinson.

 

Cecil Robinson - Winston Churchill’s Driver
By
Mrs Edna Robinson

I met my husband-to-be Cecil Robinson one day when I was playing tennis in Norfolk Park.
Cecil was a Drapery manager. He worked for Mr Bernard and was in charge of three shops and three markets. He received his call up papers when we had been married 10 months.
He joined the Royal Army Service Corps. At first he was sent to Purbright for training. He was selected to be a driver for Generals and other V.I.Ps. While he was driving General Whittaker, on one occasion he had to take him to Chatsworth House. It was so lovely because Cecil got the evening off and was able to come home for a few hours.

In 1945 he was selected to be one of a hand picked team to drive the Prime Minister. Sir Winston had a 4 and a half ton armoured car with 1 inch (25mm) thick bulletproof glass. Most weekdays Mr Churchill was taken to the Houses of Parliament, he took the Prime Minister to Chequers every weekend. At Christmas, that year, Cecil managed to get home briefly and he brought a huge bunch of beautiful mistletoe from Chequers.
Cecil had a range of duties to carry out for Sir Winston. One was connected with newspapers. The Prime Minister always wanted to see the papers as soon as they were off the press. Cecil would fetch the first editions and bring them to Sir Winston early in the morning. The Prime Minister was often in his famous “siren suit”
In addition to driving Mr Churchill, Cecil drove various V.I.P.s. On more than one occasion he drove Mrs Churchill and Miss Mary Churchill to appointments. He also collected General Montgomery from the station on one of his trips. He followed the Princess Royal for a day and also had tea on one occasion with the Archbishop of Canterbury who was a charming man. One of his more unusual assignments was to be Royal Postman for a day. He took the post from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle and was given a good supper when he got there.

Cecil drove Sir Winston at the Yalta Conference. They set sail on 18th January 1945. Cecil kept a journal of the trip. He wrote it on an Imperial Writing Pad issued to the Navy Army and Air Force Institutes. I still have it. It is a strong reminder of the war shortages. On the front it says, “Please use sparingly.”

On the 30th January they had almost reached Sebastopol. For the last part of the journey, four Russian war ships escorted them. Cecil noted that “It does not look very inviting, you can see the result of the battle which has now passed on.” He went on shore on 3rd February. “ It has certainly been knocked about” was his comment. On the 5th March as the trip drew to a close he was glad to see Blackpool Tower in the distance.

Later that year on 21st July 1945 Cecil drove Sir Winston at the British Victory Parade in Berlin. It was a great celebration but there was a lot of concern for the Prime Minister’s safety, as he wanted to meet the people and kept getting out of the car and shaking their hands.
During that trip Cecil walked through the ruins of the Reichstag. He also got a chance to see Hitler’s bunker. From one of these places he got a small piece of brown marble. It was a part of Hitler’s desk. Other articles he collected include Heinrich Himmler’s visiting card. It shows his title as Reichfuhrer SS. On the reverse is a sort of motto, which we had translated it, begins… “The command of the turning sun bids: die and progress…”

Cecil had many remarkable experiences while driving Churchill but one of the strangest of all was the Potsdam Conference. On the way out he drove Sir Winston. While they were there the election was held at home and his passenger on the return trip was Mr Atlee.

After the war Sir Winston wrote his memoirs of the Second World War, which was turned into a film. It was shown at the Odeon Theatre in Sheffield on 14th June 1964. Cecil and I were invited to the opening performance it was a great occasion.