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The Mellanby Brothers: Robert

Family photograph showing two men in the middle and a woman sat either side of them. One man stands in his army uniform looking towards the camera whilst the other perches slightly next to him in his sailors uniform. The woman on the right is their mother and she sits with straight posture with hands together on her lap looking towards the camera. She has a small face with delicate features and her dark hair is pulled behind her in a bun. The other woman is the sister and she sits on the opposite side of the men, legs crosses, arms out beside her and she is wearing a skirt suit, her hair is pulled back behind her but she has fashionable 1930s waves around her face. She looks happy with a slight smile and large eyes.
Family photo showing Robert William (left) and Fredrick Henry (right) Mellanby posing in their uniforms with their sister and mother. Image courtesy of Eric Robinson.

The Mellanby Collection tells the stories of two brothers, Robert William Mellanby and Fredrick Henry Mellanby, who both served during the Second World War. The Collection consists of official war documents, letters, uniform, and personal photographs and is now kept at Kirkleatham Museum and Grounds.

Robert William Mellanby 1918 – 1941.

In 1936, Robert William joined the Navy where he received certified training in the following years. He served on various minesweeping vessels throughout the early years of the war. These where normal vessels commandeered for use by the Navy during war time and were manned by relatively small crews. They patrolled the waters around the British Isles. In 1941, Robert William was serving on HMS Goatfell, a reconditioned paddle steamer when it was hit by a bomb killing four crew members, including Robert William.

photograph of Robert William Mellanby laughing with fellow sailor onboard a ship during WW2
Robert William Mellanby (left) and a fellow sailor serving on a ship during the Second World War, 1939 – 1941. Image courtesy of Kirkleatham Museum and Grounds.

Thanks to modern technology and the recording of oral histories of war veterans we have been able to find details of how Robert William died. However, for his family Roberts death was a mystery. They never knew the full truth that Robert was killed by a bomb and his brother, Fredrick Henry tried hard to gain any information he could during the 1980s with no luck.

Typed letter on white paper to Mr F Mellanby stating there is no record of HMS Goatfell - the ship his brother died on during World War Two
Letter to Fredrick Henry Mellanby stating there is no record of HMS Goatfell, the ship his brother died on during the Second World War. Image courtesy of Kirkleatham Museum and Grounds.

Robert William Mellanby was only 23 years old when he died, and he left behind a full scrap book full of pictures showing him as a young, fun loving man with many friends and a close family circle. The back to pages are dedicated to his favourite actresses and pin up stars of the day. It’s an incredibly personal book that was never meant to be seen by the outside world.

Three small photographs in Robert William Mellanbys scrap book.
Robert William Mellanby poses for photographs with friends, taken from his scrap book. Image courtesy of Kirkleatham Museum and Grounds.

All images courtesy of Kirkleatham Museum and Grounds.