Parish of Leatherhead

St. Mary & St. Nicholas Church

A Service of Thanksgiving
to celebrate the life of



Thursday 9th January 2014


conducted by The Reverend Dr Kuhan Satkunanayagam

ALL STAND for the Bidding Prayer

Dearly beloved brethren, we are gathered together in sight of Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, to render thanks for the life of Robin Neville Smith: to remember with affection his love and tenderness as a husband, father, grandfather and friend, as well as the constancy of his Christian faith.

O God before whose face the generations rise and pass away, the strength of those who labour and the repose of the holy and blessed dead: we beseech thee to accept our praise and thanksgiving for all who have faithfully lived and died, and especially thy servant Robin Smith whom we have in glad remembrance this day.

Lift us into life and love; and give us our portion at last with those who have trusted in thee, and are now at rest.

And to thy name, O God, with the Church on earth and in Paradise, we ascribe all honour and glory, world without end.

All: Amen

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven!

Bible Readings

Psalm 121
Read by Tom Smith

John 14: 1-6, 27
Read by Tim Smith


by Johny Armstrong

To be asked by the family to speak about Robin is a huge privilege.

I was the page boy at Robin and Hersey’s wedding and now it’s a great honour to serve them again. I have had help; let’s see if together we can just briefly evoke the spirit of this wonderful man.

All through the warm letters that Hersey has received shine Robin’s qualities of kindness, fun and laughter. For instance “a quick wit and a twinkle in his eye” or “so cheerful and full of life and so kind” and again “continuous laughter in the house when he was about” and “enormous compassion for people, with a light touch”. And “just seeing him makes you feel a whole lot better”; “What a good description,” said one, “now we know exactly who you are talking about.” These qualities are there to be seen throughout his life, through thick and thin.

And this comment “who would expect a totally wild young man to become a pillar of society!”

Robin was born in Essex in 1920, the son of Thomas Smith, who died when Robin was very young, and Dorothy Maude Neville Smith. Life was hard in the 20’s for them but by the time he was 13, things had improved enough for his mother to send him to Sedbergh “to toughen him up”. He loved it, loved the sport – rugby and boxing in particular – and loved the wild dales country for the rest of his life.

He wanted to be a doctor and was accepted by St Thomas's. The war intervened, and circumstances never permitted another shot. But it was further evidence of that overwhelming care for others that marks his whole life.

In 1939 Robin joined the HAC. Not even 20 he was commissioned on September 2, 1939, the day before war was declared. The HAC and its members were to play a central role in the rest of his life.

Robin served the whole war in B Battery 11th HAC RHA. Like many of his front line contemporaries and close friends, my father being one of them, he rarely spoke of what he had done and experienced. But lifelong friendships developed, to reappear again and again. Some of you are here today.

He was both seriously wounded and highly decorated. In May 1942 at the age of 21 he was awarded the MC for conspicuous gallantry leading up to KNIGHTSBRIDGE, the point at which 8th Army’s retreat ended for good and the HAC played a key role in stopping Rommel also for good.

My father, in command at the time and describing the course of those critical days referred to the ‘great Captain Robin Smith of B; perhaps the best gunner subaltern in 8th Army. He was quite fearless and as big in his heart as in his body.” Rommel never had a chance.

Robin fought at the second Battle of Alamein, was involved in the invasions of Sicily and Italy as well as the Italian campaign where, in early April 1945, he was awarded a second MC. He was also mentioned in dispatches.

War did not diminish his sense of fun. At the end of the war, with his great friend David Rae Smith – later his Best Man – he was put in charge of the Brussels tram system. What were these Belgian trams capable of? There was only one way to find out. Very quickly they upped the ante and tram races in Brussels became the stuff of legend. Sadly this quality of speed in Brussels may not have endured.

After the war Robin remained in the TA for some time, commanding the saluting battery at the Tower. As an exercise to raise morale, in early 1951 he marched B Battery from London to Brighton and was pictured afterwards by the Brighton Argus in the bath under the caption ‘Oh my poor feet, says the Major!’ In time he became a special constable in the HAC detachment attached to the City of London Police.

Robin loved cricket. It was not that he was a brilliant cricketer; he just loved all the fun and ethos that went with the game. Of course he supported Sussex, who delighted him on his 83rd birthday by winning the championship. “I’ve lived to see this day” was his cry of pure joy! He founded his own team, the Antelopes, based at the Antelope pub in Eaton Terrace and made up of many of his HAC friends. I suspect there are a few Antelopes here today.

But cricket played another critical role in his life. It was while playing at Armoury House, the HAC, that he met Hersey. He always claimed that his short stay at the crease that day was due not to his batting, but rather the distraction on the boundary under the mulberry tree.

Robin and Hersey were married in Stirling on November 3 1951, the start of 63 years of devoted marriage and a wonderful family life. Ant arrived in 1952 and Tim in 1955 and both I know were apples in Robin’s eyes.

Following the war Robin worked for a few years with John Lewis. He was headhunted for a rather longer stint with an East End company, John Wright & Sons, which he enjoyed, not least because of the contact with East End people. That firm closed in 1962, but to his absolute delight QEFD wanted him.

Robin served as Director of The Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled People from 1963 to 1980. He loved the job. He believed in its ideals, it was a perfect fit. He loved to spend time with the people that the Charity worked for, notwithstanding management demands. Many disabled people at QE’s came to know him well and many were inspired by his totally positive belief in them.

One of his greatest coups as Director was obtaining a major grant in 1972 from the then new and barely understood Common Market. The Foundation needed funds to support young disabled people leaving school and searching for a life and career. Robin went to Brussels to explore the system. Clearly no association was made with the tram races of old. Initiative was rewarded and it was entirely through Robin’s efforts that QEFD became the first UK charity to be awarded a grant by the EU.

It’s been written that Robin and Hersey together set QEFD off on a path which enables it to be what it is and do what it does today. What a tribute!

Robin’s energy was boundless. Even while involved with QE and then after, Robin and Hersey gave generously of their time and effort; fundraising on Saturdays in Christmas market stalls in Oxford Street, dressed with all his staff in a woolly hat with two balloons on top; the Church – mowing the churchyard, helping with the creche; the WRVS helping with meals on wheels. In short wherever help was needed, Robin volunteered. In helping others lay his love of life.

Suddenly I sense that twinkle in his eye as he looks over at me, probably in mild but forgiving disapproval of this tribute and reflection. Robin did not do going back or living in the past, neither did he do reverse. He learnt from it but the past could not be changed. Onwards, onwards I hear him cry.

Robin looked and went forward, ever positive, with kindness, with that twinkle in his eye.

REGIMENTAL FIRE from HAC members present for Major Robin Smith OBE MC* TD

Who would true valour see


Almighty Father, God of the spirits of all flesh, thyself unchanged abiding: We bless thy holy name for all who have completed their earthly course in thy faith and fear, and are now at rest.

We remember before thee this day thy servant Robin, rendering thanks to thee for the gift of his friendship, and for his life of service and devotion.

And we beseech thee, in thy loving wisdom and almighty power, work in him, as in us, all the good purpose of thy holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All: Amen

O Lord our God, from whom neither life nor death can separate those who trust in thy love, and whose love holds in its embrace thy children in this world and in the next: So unite us to thyself that in fellowship with thee we may always be united to our loved ones whether here or there: give us courage, constancy and hope; through him who died and was buried and rose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.

All: Amen

Almighty God, Father of all mercies and giver of all comfort: Deal graciously, we pray thee, with those who mourn, that casting every care on thee, they may know the consolation of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All: Amen

O Lord, support us all the day long in this troublous life, until the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All: Amen

As our Saviour Christ hath commanded and taught us, we are bold to say

Our Father,
which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.

Nunc Dimittis [said together]

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation;
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end.

The Collect

O merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life; in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; who also hath taught us, by his holy Apostle Saint Paul, not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in him:

We meekly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our brother doth; and that, at the general resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight; and receive that blessing, which thy well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.

Grant this, we beseech thee, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer.

All: Amen

For all the saints, who from their labours rest

The Blessing

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord: and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you and remain with you always.

All: Amen

You are invited by the family to join them for refreshments
after the service in the Church Hall.

There will be a retiring collection in memory of Robin to be shared between
Queen Elizabeth's Foundation for the Disabled, Leatherhead
and St. Mary and St. Nicholas Church, Leatherhead.

Alternatively donations may be sent c/o Hawkins & Sons
Highlands Road, Leatherhead KT22 8ND.

Life is mostly froth and bubble,
two things stand like stone,
kindness in another's trouble,
courage in your own.

Adam Lindsay Gordon

[insert photo of Robin]

A photograph from "Regimental Fire", the history of the Honourable
Artillery Company in the Second World War.

The following comes from a letter sent to the HAC in 1958 by
Charles Ormond of Port Elizabeth, South Africa -

"We have introduced a new routine in our family -
Each week we entertain our two grandchildren, and turn to the photograph
of Robin Smith opposite page 33.
We then join with him in a very hearty laugh -
He must have been a grand Tommy."


The Times, December 18th 2013

SMITH Robin Neville, peacefully at home in Leatherhead on 13th December 2013, aged 93. Greatly loved by all his family. Private cremation. Service of Thanksgiving at St Mary and St Nicholas Church, Leatherhead on Thursday 9th January 2014, at 11.45am. Club ties. No mourning please. Family flowers only.

from the Leatherhead Advertiser, Thursday December 26, 2013: front page

Tributes to ex-head of charity for disabled

Tributes have been paid to a former chief executive of Leatherhead,charity the Queen Elizabeth's Foundation for Disabled People (QEF).

Robin Smith, who retired from the Woodlands Road charity in 1983, died on December 13, aged 93. He first joined QEF in 1963 as director of the residential college and Dorincourt estates.

During his time at the charity, which now serves more than 1,000 people each year, he worked in various roles including director and appeals director.

Jonathan Powell, the foundation's current chief executive, told the Advertiser. "I was so sad to hear that Robin has died. I enjoyed going to have tea or coffee with him to exchange news and views about the organisation and I was always pleased to receive his affirmation that we were doing the sort of things he approved of."


"The organisation and its beneficiaries will always be indebted to him. Robin was such a fine, gentle man. We will miss him very much."

"It is nice to know that some of our trainees had recently been doing some work in the garden and that Robin was delighted with the service. So he left us with happy memories and thoughts of QEF".

The charity works with people with physical and learning disabilities or acquired brain injuries to gain new skills and increase independence.

When the college opened in 1934 it was called the Cripples' Training College and remained so until 1941 when, after an informal visit by the late Queen Mother, she expressed the wish that it should bear her name.


Sedbergh School, Cumberland
Honourable Artillery Company
Queen Elizabeth's Foundation for the Disabled
Leatherhead Parish Church, Key Events and History pages: People (go to Remembrance)

If you can add to this page with your recollection of Robin please contact the editor

Page created 9 Jan 14: updated 14 Jan 14