Group Captain ‘Robbie’ Robins

It was with great regret that the Foundation learned that Group Captain ‘Robbie’ Robins, a father-figure of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, had passed away on 17th  April 2020. Following service as a radar operator in the Royal Air Force during the war, he joined the Auxiliary Air Force in 1948 becoming the Commanding Officer of No 1 (County of Hertford) Maritime Headquarters Unit and then, in 1973, the Inspector of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. He retired from that appointment in 1983, but retained strong links with the Force until his death. A greatly respected individual, he will be missed by many. 


Group Captain Leonard Edward Robins CBE AE**

2 November 1921 to 17 April 2020

Group Captain Leonard Edward Robins always known as ‘Robbie’ was born on 2 November 1921 to Louise and Joseph Robins. Joseph was a bandmaster in the Royal Marines.  Robbie grew up and was educated in Surrey and in due course joined the GPO.  When war broke out Robbie was called up and joined the RAF training as a radar plotter.  He served in a number of locations including Ceylon.  On one occasion he doggedly tracked a Japanese Kawasaki flying boat for four hours before if was shot down by allied fighters. The station from which he was discharged at the end of the war was the Chain Home radar unit at Dunkirk.  It was always a great joke that the person preparing his discharge papers failed to appreciate that this was in Kent not France, and credited him with further overseas service.   After the war he was employed in the Ministry of Health transferring later to housing and local government.  Keen to utilise his military skills he joined No 3700 (County of London) Radar Reporting Unit of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force as a reservist and was one of the first to join the newly formed No I (County of Hertford) Maritime Headquarters Unit in 1959. The role of this unit that continues to this day as No 600 (City of London) Squadron was to provide trained operations and intelligence personnel to augment the joint headquarters at Northwood.

Recognising Robbie’s skills and passion for the air force he was commissioned and rose rapidly through the ranks as an Intelligence officer.   He was promoted to the rank of wing commander and took command of the Unit from 1969 to 1973.   At the same time his civilian career was taking off and he joined the Lord Mayor of London’s personal staff initially as a researcher eventually becoming the speech writer to the Lord Mayor.  It was here that Robbie’s communications skills, sense of humour and charisma were so evident.  To receive one of Robbie’s letters, so well crafted and beautifully written in flowing text was a great thrill and these letters certainly became collector‘s items.  As if Robbie’s work in the Lord Mayor’s office and his demanding time as an active reservist were not enough, he managed to undertake various voluntary appointments.  These included positions such as the air force member of the Territorial and Volunteer Reserves Association for Greater London, the Patron of the WW2 Air Forces Radar Reporting Group, the President of Wandsworth’s Victim Support Unit, Trustee of the Grey Coat Hospital Foundation in Westminster and latterly as a Freeman of the City of London.

Robbie was appointed Inspector of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and ADC to Her Majesty The Queen in 1974 and he held that position until 1983.  During this time he developed and introduced the appointments of Honorary Air Commodores into the Force and that of an Honorary Inspector General to oversee the on going integration of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force into the Royal Air Force.  Robbie also made much progress in positioning the Force for further expansion that now includes Regiment, Role support, Police, Air Movements, Intelligence, Flying, and Medical Squadrons.   He was appointed as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1983.   Typical of Robbie’s humour was his listing in Who’s Who stating that one of his recreations was ‘kipping’; this was certainly something that Robbie had little time to fit into a very busy life.  He married Jean Searle in 1949 until her untimely death in 1985 thereafter living in Cornwall with Sheila, his life-long companion. Robbie sadly passed away in hospital, a victim of COVID-19 on 17 April 2020 in his 99th year.     

Bob Kemp – 23 April 2020

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