Robert Downie was born on 12 January 1894 in Laurencetown, County Down. One of sixteen children he was educated at St. Aloysius Catholic, Springburn, Glasgow. His parents were Irish, but his upbringing appears to have been in Glasgow, and it was to Glasgow that he returned after the war. He was awarded a Military Medal in 1916 in a separate engagement.
On leaving school moved into the locomotive works in Springburn where his father had been employed for most of his working life. Robert Downie was one of five brothers who were to fight in the Great War with two of them not surviving the war.
He was 22 years old, and a sergeant in the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers when he was awarded the VC.
On 23 October 1916 east of Lesboeufs, France, when most of the officers had become casualties, Sergeant Downie, utterly regardless of personal danger and under very heavy fire, organised the attack which had been temporarily checked. At the critical moment he rushed forward shouting "Come on the Dubs!" which had an immediate response and the line rushed forward at this call. Sergeant Downie accounted for several of the enemy and in addition captured a machine-gun, killing the team. Although wounded early in the fight, he remained with his company, giving valuable assistance while the position was being consolidated.
On his homecoming, he arrived at Glasgow Central Station to be met by hundreds of people who carried him shoulder-high to a taxi. Springburn Road was decorated with flags and bunting and lined with hundreds more people, and his achievement was widely reported in the Glasgow press.In 1929 he attended a Victoria Cross reunion in London.
On 8 June 1946, Robert attended the World War II Victory Day Celebration Reception held at the Dorchester Hotel, London.
He lived quietly in Carleston Street, Springburn, until his death in 1968. Football fans at Celtic Park regularly saw him on a Saturday as he worked as a cashier at the turnstiles. A modest man, he often played down his bravery, saying he won the medals for having 'shot the cook'.
He died age 74 on 18 April 1968. Downie has a grave/memorial at St. Kentigern's Cemetery, Glasgow, Scotland. Section 21. Lair 506. Headstone.
Royal Dublin Fusiliers, awards and medals