Bobby's War

Bobby Greg in uniform

Bobby Greg was still at school when War broke out, but was eager to join his brother in the fighting. Although still seen by the family as a boy, he went to war before the age of 20.

Bobby was a pupil at Rugby Boarding School when War broke out and spent most of the war eager to join his brother and sisters. By 1916 schools were devoting time to training boys for the army. Bobby completed theoretical and practical training and wrote to his father from school: 

 ‘It seems almost likely that I won’t get out this term, but still one must do…everything possible to get efficient in order to get a commission…once a week we have lectures on trench fighting, and on Fridays we go out to some trenches, do a bit of draining and clearing up, then learn bomb training with empty Mills bombs…practicing the attack with many casualties. It is rather fun, but rather hard and useful to learn of course’.

Bobby received his commission in September 1917 aged 19, five months after Arthur’s death. He joined as 2nd Lieutenant in the Cheshire Regiment and after training for six months was posted to Belgium in April 1918. 

Bobby always kept Arthur close to his heart and tried to remain positive when writing to his parents:
‘I am sure that if Arthur is not often near us… that certainly he is in some far far better place, somehow to me that seems natural as if by instinct. I suppose it is because I am young and haven’t seen the hard things of life. I feel that an awful responsibility rests on me when we hear of all the most brilliant young men being killed, if I am allowed to survive it is only to carry out some great duty’.

On 1st May he sent a letter to his father and his optimism shines through despite the difficulties he was facing:
‘We haven’t had any fighting to do yet, only receiving nastiness & being prepared to move to form defensive flanks & other details…This is about the 7th day. I have managed a wash nearly every day and I don’t think I have any lice yet, same boots and clothes all the time of course.. Really I feel in the best of spirits, though I was awfully tired last night… How awfully I appreciate your letters. I got another today dated the 26th. If it was not for the heavy carnage I should thoroughly enjoy this. There is such variety, novelty, and just a tinge of danger and excitement, but a heavy carnage does rather put the wind up one.’

Do you know I saw a Pied Flycatcher yesterday! The blackbirds sing beautifully. I have heard willow wrens too, & plenty of swallows and curlew passing at night’. 

His letter ended:
‘Well Dada, don’t worry about me. If God has better use for me alive he will spare me I am sure. I will try and do my best & may he give me strength and courage too when hell is switched on. I had to bury a man this morning, & say a few words. It was very hard’.

On 3rd May 1918 a German shell was dropped near his trench. Bobby was wounded and died a few hours later. He is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium.

The brothers as young boys. Arthur is in the middle, Bobby on the left and Alec on the right
Photo of Arthur, Bobby and Alec Greg as young boys
The brothers as young boys. Arthur is in the middle, Bobby on the left and Alec on the right

The loss of Bobby was felt by the whole community of Styal and letters of condolence flowed in.  Ernest Greg replied to the village with a letter pouring with grief:
‘The kind letters of sympathy which we are receiving from all sides is a great consolation to us in our great sorrow. To lose two such fine boys out of three seems an almost crushing & overwhelming blow, but we remember that great as is our loss other families all over the country have lost in many a hundred cases their only son, & in others 3 or 4 out of 5 or 6 boys so that we are not alone in suffering, but it is bad enough as it is and life can never be the same for us now. They gave their lives to their country so willingly and ungrudgingly, even cheerfully that we cannot help being very proud of them’. 

Bobby was awarded the British War Medal and British Victory Medal.