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Robert William Eden was born in the last quarter of 1895 and his birth was registered in Pickering. However according to the Soldiers Died in the Great War database, he was born in Malton. He was the eldest child of Robert and Emily (nee Clark) Eden who married in the Pickering area in the second quarter of 1895.
In 1901 the Eden family were living at Newbridge, the far side of Pickering from Malton and Robert senior was working in a limestone quarry.
1901 Census – resident at Newbridge, Pickering
EDEN, Robert, Head, Married, M, 32, Limestone Quarryman, Pickering Yorkshire
EDEN, Emily, Wife, Married, F, 29, Pickering Yorkshire
EDEN, Robert William, Son, M, 5, Pickering Yorkshire
EDEN, Horace, Son, M, 3, Pickering Yorkshire
EDEN, Elsie, Daughter, F, 2, Pickering Yorkshire
EDEN, Sydney, Son,, M, 8 months , Pickering Yorkshire
By 1911 Robert junior had moved out into paid work at Charity Farm, Marishes where he was working as a horseman for Mr and Mrs Brisby. His parents and family were resident in Lockton where his father was a general labourer.
1911 Census – resident at Charity Farm, Marishes
EDEN, Robert William, Servant, Single, M, 15, Horseman on Farm, Yorks Pickering
Robert enlisted at Malton in the 5th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment apparently as a Transport driver. This was a Territorial battalion based at Scarborough and was part of the York & Durham Brigade, Northumbrian Division. In 1915 the Battalion landed at Boulogne and became part of 150th Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division. In early April the Division was warned that it would go on overseas service and entrainment began on 16 April. By 23 April the Division had concentrated in the area of Steenvoorde. It had arrived just as the German army had attacked at nearby Ypres, using poison gas for the first time, and was rushed into the battle. The Division then remained in France and Flanders and took part in the Second Battle of Ypres.
In February 1916 the 5th were in trenches in the Ypres Salient until 12th February when they were relieved by 4th East Yorkshires and went into close support. Robert was killed on 11th February, hit by a shell while driving his wagon toward the trenches (although the battalion War diary places his death after a German attack on the 15th, saying that Robert along with two other privates and a corporal were killed in action on the 16th February) . The Forces chaplain wrote to his mother saying “Dear Mrs Eden, I am very grieved indeed to have to send you the sad news that Private R. Eden, 5th Yorkshire Transport was killed by a shell while waiting with his transport on Friday night. His comrades and I laid his body to rest just outside Poperinghe and a cross will be erected to mark his grave. Please accept my real sympathy with you in your great sorrow and loss. It will be some consolation to you to know that he died a soldier’s death, doing his duty, and also, I am told, his death was painless”. His commanding officer also wrote to her “He was a very good man, and always did his work like a soldier, and I was always very satisfied with him. His death was instantaneous and he had absolutely no pain. He died driving his wagon to the trenches and doing his duty to the last.” He was buried in the New Military Cemetery at Poperinghe.
The town of Poperinghe (now Poperinge) was of great importance during the First World War because, although occasionally bombed or bombarded at long range, it was the nearest place to Ypres (now Ieper) which was both considerable in size and reasonably safe. It was at first a centre for Casualty Clearing Stations, but by 1916 it became necessary to move these units further back and field ambulances took their places. The New Military Cemetery was established in June 1915 and contains 677 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 271 French war graves. The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.
Robert is also commemorated on the war memorial in Pickering church and the Pickering Town War memorial.