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Duarte, Robert William

Missing. His ship lost in “Greatest Amphibian Expedition” “My friend and colleague” Alderman
“Duarte, Robert William, Lt. R.N.V.R., missing presumed killed on active service, in November 1942, only son of Mr. and Mrs. W. V. Duarte, 30 Langside Crescent, Southgate, N.14. Any information gratefully received.”


I was filled with deep melancholy when I read this formal announcement in The Times newspaper. It is in such moments of cold shock and acute mental disturbance that one is brought sharply face to face with the realities of war; when one shudders at the impact of casualties upon families one knows. Yet who am I that I should write as though this sorrow has fallen only upon me? What of his grief-stricken parents and sister? The sense of overpowering loss is theirs and I feel for them.


If I am miserable it is because Bob Duarte was for a short time my friend and colleague, the friend and colleague also of those two “Gazette” men, W. R. Edwards and W. H. Armitage, who met their deaths from Nazi bombs a year and a half ago. It seems so very tragic that I should be sitting here again to pay tribute not only to a gallant son of England but to a “Gazette” writer for whom we had affection and deep regard.  Join with me in expressing the hurt of parting while sharing the hope that Bob lives. Robert Duarte was 23: younger than that when he spent a few months in our small newspaper circle in Aldermans Hill. He was 6ft. 2 tall, 13 stone and more in weight, fair complexion and with hair of red-gold. A Viking!
He came to us from King’s College, London where he had been studying journalism. Lodging with the “Gazette” staff temporarily, to learn the ways of practical journalism before moving on to the wider field of literary work in which, I am confident, he would by sheer charm he would have earned proud place.


He was different. It is easy to make mistakes about young men. But not, I think about Bob Duarte. He was outstandingly different. This is what Mr. A. O. Gibbs, headmaster of Minchenden School, said to me this week. “He was really a most unusual type of boy; a brilliant student showing great literary promise and dramatic ability. “As a pupil and as an Old Minchendenian he had made stage performances of outstanding merit. As Mark Anthony he was superb in our school production; as an old student playing the part of the Angel in “Tobias and the Angel” he gave a brilliant performance. Robert had a fine voice and a striking presence. “I think he would have made his mark in life as a writer. He had written plays, and while in U.S.A. (on special air service – “Ald.”) had met several important literary people. He had talents not often given to ordinary folk. His great ambition was to write plays, and I feel that he had the ability and the driving force to get what he wanted.”


Mr. Gibbs added that Bob Duarte was one of a brilliant group of boys in the sixth form, two of whom – O’Shea and West – have already been lost in the war. That is the tribute of his headmaster. My association with Bob Duarte led to the conviction that one day he would make a name. Early in the war he joined the R.N.V.R.  Was a towering midshipman. Promoted sub-lieutenant, he joined H.M.S. Sheffield, in which he became entertainments officer. This young man of many parts had a dry sense of humour. Sometimes very serious – a keen student browsing in a very considerable library – he was also on occasion very gay. Gay not with a shout and booming laugh but with quip, droll, jest and chuckle. But Bob Duarte was not really happy until he found an outlet for his mental energy. He found it and grasped opportunity in H.M. aircraft–carrier Avenger, a converted merchantman which Mr A. V. Alaxander had regretfully to announce was lost in the greatest amphibious expedition in history when the American and British Armies were landed in North Africa.


To his father, a well-known and much appreciated resident of Southgate; to Bob’s mother, and to his sister Irene (Mrs A. J. V. Owen), I offer sympathy. I who had known Bob for so brief a time, can only proffer sincere fellow feeling and pay inadequate tribute to the memory of “R.W.D.” May they yet hear the news which alone will bring the smiles back quickly.
When Bob left school he went to the Admiralty branch of the Civil Service, but left after three months “tired of doing nothing” as he put it. He went into other offices; but offices were not for him. In King’s College he entered into the realm of letters which would have led him – and will lead him if he lives – into honoured channels. “ALDERMAN” Palmer’s Green Gazette 11 Dec. 1942

 

Biographical

Surname(s)Duarte
First name(s)Robert William
Date of birth21 April 1919
Place of birthEdmonton District
Family detailsSon of William V. and Alice F. Duarte, of Southgate, Middlesex.
Previous educationMichenden School
CollegeKing's College London and/or King's College London Hospital
Dates at college1938-1939
Dept / courseJournalism
Military unitR.N.V.R., H.M.S. Avenger
War / conflictWorld War Two (1939-1945)
Date of death15/11/1942
Age at death23
Rank at deathLieutenant
Cause of deathMissing presumed killed Times 3 Dec 1942
Commemoration(s)King’ s College Chapel; Chatham War Memorial
SourcesKing’ s College London Archives, Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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