|Alexandria Train Station (from blog - From Egypt with Love)|
A Soldier of the Indian Army
In 1918, having graduated from Dulwich College, Robin entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolich as a cadet. He quickly transferred to the Indian Army College at Quetta in India. A year later, on 15 April, 1919, Robin was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Gurkha Rifles. The Gurkhas were fearsome fighters from Nepal whose regimental motto was: Better to die than live like a coward.
|Gurkhas (from Gurkha Museum)|
In 1922, after the 2nd Gurkha Rifles was disbanded, Robin was transferred to the 39th Garhwal Rifles (later renamed the 18th Garhwal Rifles) with whom he saw active service in Waziristan for the next couple of years. On 15 April, 1925, Robin was promoted to Captain and served with the 11th (Training) Battalion of the Regiment. A year later Robin was transferred to Oman and appointed Commandant of the Muscat Levy Corps, a post he held until 1929. At one point he returned to India where he married divorcee Phyllis Gwendlen (Townshand) Fletcher on 21 May 1927 in Rawal Pindi, Bengal, India. Phyllis was the daughter of Charles Collingwood Townshand, a retried officer of the Royal Artillery.
In 1929, Robin was transferred back to India and ended up serving as the Deputy Assistant Judge Advocate General for the Northern Command, and a year later for Army Headquarters.
Return to England
|An India General|
with two clasps.
From 1934 to 1939, our knowledge of Robin's life is a bit murky. There is some evidence that he may had tried his hand at journalism, developing an eccentric writing style that he would later put to good use as commandant of Camp 020. He may also have been connected with the courts at Lincoln's Inn (London). He did publish a couple of books - A Practical Digest of Military Law (1933) and A Digest of the Laws of Evidence in Courts Martial (1934), the latter co-authored with Sir Harry Lushington. From 1937 to 1939 he was apparently based in Lincoln and working for the National Fitness Council for England.
MI5's Official Spy-Breaker
|Camp 020 - Latchmere House, Ham Common|
Despite Robin's extensive travel and knowledge of lanugages, he was a rather narrow-minded individual and an self-acknowledged xenophobe. He had no tolerance for homosexual behaviour and liked to consider himself an amateur psychologist. Robin had no patience for cowards or cowardly behaviour, perhaps a throwback to his time in the Gurkhas, whose motto was: Better to die than live like a coward. In the eyes of Robin, it was far better for potential spies to die than to live like cowards.
|Col. R.W.G. Stephens|
(from Imperial War Museum)
Rather surprisingly, considering his fierce reputation, Robin was dead-set against the use of physical torture in the interrogation of prisoners at Camp 020. In his history of the camp, Stephens wrote that "Violence is taboo, for not only does it produce answers to please, but it lowers the standard of information... Never strike a man. In the first place it is an act of cowardice. In the second place, it is not intelligent. A prisoner will lie to avoid further punishment and everything he says thereafter will be based on a false premise". During World War 2, almost 500 prisoners passed through Camp 020, most of them German spies or British fascists. Stephens had a hand in interrogating each of them.
Post-War Interrogation Centre at Bad Nenndorf
|Bad Nenndorf - former CSDIC interrogation centre|
(from History Today)
Stephens was charged on four counts: conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline, failure in his duty as supervisor of the facility, and two counts of disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind. Ultimately, only the doctor, Captain John Stuart Smith, was found guilty an any charges and he was dismissed from the Army. Stephens was acquitted of all charges.
In 1960, Robin was discharged from the Territorial Army with the honorary rank of Brigadier. Little is known of his later life and when or where he died.
Camp 020: MI5 and the Nazi Spies - 2000 - R.W.G. Stephens (edited by Oliver Hoare)
Ancestry website - genealogy records.
Frontier Medals - brief bio on Stephens