Born at Crowle in 1877, Robert was youngest of the four children of Charles William and Emily Kezia Dickman (nee Pidd). His mother was from Crowle, but his father was from Bingham in Nottinghamshire and by 1871 at least, a soldier in the army. He served in the 34th Foot, who went out to India in 1875 and in 1881 was Emily living back in Crowle with the children, with an address of ‘Linton Pidd’s Yard’, Commonside.
The family appear to have been quite musical as elder brother Lorenzo (Pidd) was a violinist and in 1896 Robert himself was a performer at a Musical Evening in aid of the Parish Institute. This was not his only appearance in the newspaper as a year earlier he had been fined 2s and 6d for assaulting Henry Slingsby.
In 1891 Robert, aged 14, was a farm labourer, living with his mother and two siblings in the High Street. At some point in the 1890’s he apparently became a painter and decorator.
In October 1906 Robert emigrated to Canada, arriving in Quebec from Liverpool onboard the ‘Lake Champlain’. He was living in Calgary, Alberta, when he enlisted in the Canadian Army on 29th October 1915.
It is uncertain when Robert went out to France with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, but when he did so he joined the Eastern Ontario Regiment, who had been in France in February 1915 serving as the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry.
On 1st June 1916 the 2nd Battalion CEF were stationed in the Ypres area, resting out of the front line at Essars, before returning back to the trenches at Givenchy on 10th June. Here they occupied a trench known as ‘Fire Trench’. The first two days in Fire Trench were very quiet but the 13th June saw the return of heavy shelling which claimed several casualties, among them Robert Dickman. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.
When news of his death reached his mother she received a letter from George Jackson, the MP for Gainsborough, who wrote of Robert:
‘He has neither lived nor died in vain for he has left a shining example of duty performed’.
A curious footnote to the story of Robert Dickman is his entry on the Roll of Soldier’s Died in the Great War. Probably written by his sister, then Mary Kezia Graves of Manchester, it states he was born 31st January 1877 in Dublin, Ireland. Which contradicts the census returns, his birth registration and the notice of his death in the Epworth Bells all of which say he was born in Crowle?