- Tyne Cot Memorial
- Panel: 80
Distinctions and medals
Robert Walter Tumber was born in the summer of 1878. He was the son of Sarah Anne and William Robert Tumber of Harbledown, Kent. According to the 1911 census, Robert worked as driver’s assistant on a steam lorry in Upchurch, Kent. He was probably conscripted in the army in 1916, with the introduction of the Military Service Act. This act imposed conscription on all unmarried men aged between 18 to 41. As Robert was 37 and unmarried, he was possibly drafted. By the time of the Battle of Passchendaele, he served with the 8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment, part of the 55th Brigade, of the 18th (Eastern) Division.
On 12 October 1917, Robert’s unit participated in the First Battle of Passchendaele. It advanced through Poelkapelle towards Papa and Hinton Farm at 5.20 a.m. It soon became clear that the artillery barrage, which was to cover the attack, was too light. Almost no German machine-gun positions had been taken out and the advance would face withering machine-gun fire. The Battalion was therefore brought to a standstill after 500 yards. In particular two machine-guns east of Gloster Farm caused heavy casualties. According to the 8th East Surrey’s war diary almost 60 percent of the Battalion’s dead were lying in front of Gloster Farm. Sniper fire, coming from Beek Houses on the right flank, also hindered movement.
The situation was bad from the very start. A large number of the officers and senior N.C.O’s had become casualties and runners were unable to bring back messages owing to rifle- and machine-gun fire. It was decided to fall back, roughly 100 yards in front of the jumping-off line.
The 8th East Surrey’s were finally relieved from the front line on the following day. The Battalion had suffered a total of 240 casualties during the period 10th/14th October 1917. 56 men were killed, 142 were wounded and another 42 men went missing.
Robert Walter Tumber, 39 at the time, was killed during the attack on Gloster Farm. He has no known grave and is remembered on panel 80 of the Tyne Cot Memorial.