Robert Peterson, never Bob, was a true Portsmouth lad. Born with the smell of salt and the cries of seagulls in the air just before the Second World War, his earliest years were spent with his father away at sea in the Navy. Robert was the oldest of four children, and followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the Navy three days before his 18th birthday.
Robert seems to have enjoyed the Navy lark. He spent eight years as a telegraphist and communications man, serving on a number of ships including, briefly, the HMS Belfast. During his career in the Navy, he consistently impressed his superiors, being repeatedly recorded as an excellent all-round telegraphist and radio operator. He served both in home waters and abroad, and during his time must have sailed around much of the world.
Robert left the Navy after more than eight years’ service and returned to Portsmouth. Unfortunately, a family disagreement led to him losing touch with his relatives, who scattered around Britain and indeed beyond. He never forgot his time in the Navy, however, and would donate to charities for injured servicemen and women for the rest of his life. He also had a keen love of animals, being a donor to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home. He never did get back in touch with his family, however.
When he passed away in Portsmouth, his family did not know. To ensure his funeral would be well attended the local council had organised for the flying of the White Ensign and for representatives of the Navy to attend. Fortunately, here at Family Wise we were able to find Robert’s siblings before the funeral took place. Although one lived in Australia, the others were able to attend and found it a fitting send off – as one said, ‘Robert would have approved.’
Written by Deputy Managing Director, James Green