Robin Saxon Corfield OAM
1929 – 2010
Military historian and author of Don’t forget me, cobber – The Battle of Fromelles passed away peacefully at his home in Lara, Victoria on Saturday 9th October 2010. He was 81 years old. Mr Corfield is survived by two sons, Justin & Chris.
The work and research of Robin Corfield played an integral part in discovery of the ‘missing’ from the Battle of Fromelles by Lambis Englezos. Lambis reflects on his relationship with Robin: I take this public opportunity to declare my admiration and affection for Robin Corfield. He has left a wonderful legacy in our common cause of commemoration and remembrance. The quality I most admired in Robin was his sense of social justice. He did not sit on the fence; this is clearly evident in his books.
It was Robin Corfield who established the ”Fromelles” momentum. He saw the need to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle of Fromelles. He founded the “Friends of the 15th Brigade”. He researched and wrote ”Don’t Forget Me Cobber”. I recall our many meetings with great fondness; his depth of knowledge was remarkable and broad. My dear friend, sadly missed.
Les Carlyon in the Foreward of Don’t forget me, cobber described Robin Corfield as:
a thorough man. He assembles facts like a barrister building a case, going back and forth over documents, thousands of them – diaries, letters, books, German records, trench maps, photographs – sifting and testing, comparing one version with another, looking for inconsistencies and corroborating witnesses, and asking questions, always asking questions …………… Robin Corfield’s achievement is simply that he has told us, better than anyone before him, what happened at Fromelles and why Fromelles matters.
The following insight into the life of Robin Corfield appears inside the back cover of his 2008 book Give me back my dear old cobbers – The story of the 58th and 59th Australian Infantry Battalions 1913-1942, Published by Corfield and Company, 496pp.
Robin S Corfield’s introduction to “things military” was by way of his father William who served with the 1st Australian Field Artillery in World War I. He was wounded on 31 July 1917 at Ypres. One consequence of his war experience was that William had a set of C.E.W. Bean’s Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 in the house, Volume XII, the photographic volume being a special attraction to a small boy. In the late 1930s when World War II loomed large, an officer’s tunic with 60th Bn colour patches appeared regularly, signaling that William was off to some event involving the 57th/60th Battalion. Sadly however William succumbed to his war wounds, and after a long illness died in 1943: he was 46.
Robin was at Geelong Grammar School throughout the war years and in the school cadets. Thus like most Australian boys of that time had no doubt that he would join the fight against the Japanese when he turned 18, and that might be just north of Brisbane. That prospect finally vanished in August 1945, but not the interest in history.
During travels and periods of living abroad, he explored the battlefields of France and the cemeteries which are their everlasting memorials. The sites and regions in Malaya and Singapore where Australians had been active was a particular interest during three years he spent in Singapore.
On his return to Melbourne in 1987, a chance visit to the Shrine presented the opportunity to write a history of the 57th/60th Battalion from 1930 to 1990. Material gathered for that gave rise to a history of the 57th and 60th Battalions 1912-1930. The present volume dealing with the 58th and 59th Battalions 1913-1942, completes the story of the 15th Brigade battalions.
In 1992, Robin Corfield, with Jacqueline Todd and Lambis Englezos, started “The Friends of the 15th Brigade,” and in 2002 he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) “for service to the community through the preservation of Australia’s military history in association with “The Friends of 15th Brigade”.
The following notice appeared in the Melbourne Age on Monday 11th October, 2010.
Military Historian; Gentleman.
Passed away peacefully at his home in Lara, October 9, 2010. Aged 81.
You are not only my father, but also my greatest and my dearest friend.
The light in the lamp which has guided me has now gone out, but I will remember your voice, your creative spirit, your sense of fairness, and above all, your help given at all times.
My heart is broken. You are always my Papee. I will never forget you, Cobber.
The Funeral Service will be held at Geelong Grammar School, Victoria which Robin attended and where he was in the School Cadets. The Funeral will then travel to Kangaroo Ground Public Cemetery.
The President of the Families and Friends of the First AIF, on behalf of all of its members, offers its gratitude and condolences to Justin, Chris and the Corfield Family.
The Families and Friends of the First AIF applauds the joint Australian–UK decision, to conduct a full DNA testing program on the remains of Australian and British soldiers found in mass graves at Pheasant Wood (Fromelles), and for their continuing commitment to identify as many of the fallen as is possible. We also thank the Australian, UK and French governments for affording dignified individual reburials for these soldiers, buried by German soldiers following the Battle of Fromelles on 19/20 July 1916, in the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery.