THE CAULDRON OF WAR, 1914-1918
Robert Gardner (1899-1972) was a member of a generation of highly-educated Englishmen who went to war in 1914: a war in which they suffered a horrifying loss of life. Robert Gardner was one of the survivors.
Before the war, after taking First-Class Honours in both parts of the Classics Tripos at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he was awarded the much prized Craven Studentship that took him to Italy for two years to carry out research into aspects of Roman military history. Towards the end of his time in Italy, the outbreak of the First World War brought him immediately back to England. He was a Lancashire man and he was commissioned in the senior infantry regiment from that county, the King's Own (Royal Lancashire Regiment). His battalion spent the winter of 1914-1915 training for war.
Robert Gardner went with his battalion to France in May 1915, and was with them when they fought in four major battles in which they suffered heavy casualties. His service was interrupted by a serious injury from an accident with a firearm, and although he was away from his battalion for fourteen months, he served for more than two years in the trenches. He was awarded the Military Cross, and was steadily promoted until, at the end of the war he commanded his battalion as a lieutenant colonel.
He took his battalion back to England in 1919, and with the rest of his men he was demobilized. Emmanuel College lost no time in electing him to a fellowship, He spent a long and productive career delivering university lectures and supervising students, and he also became Bursar of the College, with the responsibility for finances, investments and all business affairs. His life revolved around the College. He was a very popular figure, and one of the more distinguished public rooms in the College was named after him. He had a happy family life; he was devout, and remarkably abstemious.
During all the years after the First World War he maintained regular contact with the King's Own, and although he lived in Cambridge he regularly attended regimental reunions in Lancashire. He retired in 1960, but this did not stop him from his regular association with the fellows and undergraduates of Emmanuel.
In the words of the Master of the College: 'He was an Emmanuel institution, who for more than half a century represented a vital link with the past.'