Robert George Dance was born in 1915 the eldest son of a then serving soldier. Three of his uncles were killed in the First World War. Robert worked for the County of London Electricity Supply Company and was a pre-war Territorial soldier. He was one of 117 men from his unit sent to defend Singapore of which 113 were captured by the Japanese in February 1942. 56 of those captured, including Robert, died in captivity, many on the 'Death Railway'. His parents licved in Ash Tree Crescent.
Robert was born in the Chelmsford registration district (probably at Widford) on 1st December 1915, the eldest child of George Henry Dance (1889-1975) and Martha Ethel Dance (nee Jarvis) (1890-1965). He was baptised at St. Mary's Church in Widford on 6th February 1916 at which time his father was a Private in the 1/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment,
His parents married at St. Mary's Church in Widford on 23rd March 1915. Robert’s parents are known to have been living at Day’s Cottages in Widford in 1915.
Robert's siblings included Elsie May Dance (1919-2011), Cyril John Dance (1921-1948), Harry Dance (born 1923 and died in 1923), and Joyce Evelyn Dance (1925-2003).
Robert’s mother lost two brothers in the First World War, killed in 1916 and killed the following year. Both are commemorated by the Widford war memorial.
Another uncle of Robert's, , was also killed in the First World War,
Robert studied at the Chelmsford School of Art and Technology and was awarded a science prize there in 1932. Later he worked for the County of London Electricity Supply Company.
During the Second World War Robert served as Lance Corporal 2574422 in 18 (Eastern) Divisional Provost Company, Corps of Military Police. The Company, a Territorial unit, was formed in Norwich in early 1940, but the core of its personnel had been transferred from 54th (East Anglian) Divisional Provost Company, Corps of Military Police (Territorial Army), which had been raised in Chelmsford in February 1939 and was based at a rented property "Phoenix House," New London Road, Chelmsford.
The Company landed in Singapore in January 1942, comprising of 117 men. A few weeks later, on 15th February 1942 when the Japanese captured the colony. only four men from the Company escaped capture. Robert was one of those captured. Of the remainder, one was killed in action and 56 were to die later in the war through ill-treatment and disease.
Robert George DANCE, Lance Corporal, 18 (Eastern) Divisional Provost Company,
Corps of Military Police. Killed in Burma. Aged 27
Robert was initially imprisoned at Changai Prison before being made to work on the notorious Siam to Burma 'Death Railway'. The railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway.
An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar). Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre.
The Japanese aimed at completing the railway in 14 months and work began in October 1942. The line, 424 kilometres long, was completed by December 1943. Where found the graves of those who died during the construction and maintenance of the railway (except for the Americans, whose remains were repatriated) were transferred from camp burial grounds and isolated sites along the railway into three cemeteries at Chungkai and Kanchanaburi in Siam (now Thailand) and Thanbyuzayat in Burma (now Myanmar).
According to a role of honour compiled by the Officer Commanding of 18th (Eastern) Divisional Provost Company, Corps of Military Police, he went "missing from Songkrai June 1943.". He was 27 years old. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission list his date of death as 4th August 1943.
Robert has no known grave and is commemorated by the Singapore Memorial. His parents lived at 6 Ash Tree Crescent in Chelmsford.
Another Chelmsfordian, , also died while serving with 18 Divisional Provost Company, Corps of Military Police,