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Who was George Arthur Roberts?

A life well lived

This website was set up by the family of George Arthur Roberts to celebrate his life and legacy. Born in 1891 he came to the UK around 1914, fought in World War I and was a founder member of the British Legion in 1919 and the League of Coloured Peoples in 1931. He was the first black man to join the Auxiliary Fire Service in 1938 and received the British Empire Medal for his work setting up discussion groups within the fire service in 1944. As interest in his life has grown, his family continue to honour his memory and disseminate his work as widely as possible.


Norman Hepple's portrait of George Arthur Roberts
dated July 1941.

Welcome to the Life and Legacy of George Arthur Roberts

A website created by his family
to commemorate his life and work

About George Arthur Roberts

Dates for your diary: New and recent events on George Arthur Roberts

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Camden New Journal honours Black history makers 

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IWM highlights black wartime servicemen and women

The new World War Two Galleries at the Imperial War Museum honours a number of black servicemen and women including Billy Strachan, Lilian Bader and others. It takes a different approach to the history of war, looking at the ordinary soldier, including enemy soldiers, and devotes a whole section to highlighting the Empire's military contribution.

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Eric Ephraim Gordon

The Life and Legacy of George Arthur Roberts website is saddened to announce the passing of the editor of the Camden New Journal Mr Eric Ephraim Gordon.  His tireless promotion of the legacy of Roberts's life is greatly appreciated by the family of George Arthur Roberts worldwide. RIP Eric.

The Camden New Journal continues to produce its best selling black history month publication Black History Makers a year on in a new glossy supplement featuring George Arthur Roberts.  If you would like a copy, please send a cheque for £7.50 payable to CNJ in an envelope marked Black History Makers and send to 40 Camden Road NW1 9DR or call 02074199000.

Forthcoming events

News and information commemorating the life and work of George Arthur Roberts

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Imperial War Museum opens new World War Two galleries

AFTER six years of research, curation and hard work the Imperial War Museum opened its spectacular World War Two galleries in London this week featuring George Arthur Roberts. 

IWM patron the Duke of Kent, escorted around the exhibits by IWM staff, immediately recognised the AFS uniform when he arrived at the exhibit honouring Roberts and other Home Front service members. He later met Roberts's great granddaughter, Samantha Harding, alongside other family members whose relatives also appeared in the new Holocaust galleries including extraordinary Holocaust survivor Kitty Hart-Moxon. She presented the Duke with a gift of her book detailing her story of surviving Auschwitz aged only 14. 

The exhibition will stand for the next twenty years at the IWM in Kennington.
Pictured is Samantha Harding, Roberts's great granddaughter, who stands alongside the exhibit.
With thanks to curator Vikki Hawkins.

More than 184,000 watch the Ancestry ad on YouTube

Ancestry creates advert using George Arthur Roberts image

FOLLOWING the extraordinary success of the television adverts for with 689,000 views on YouTube and featuring the voice of his great granddaughter, the genealogy website has again led its advertising campaign with this striking picture of George Arthur Roberts. 

The image, originated from a photograph of Roberts taken during his World War Two work for the Auxiliary Fire Service,  is already appearing in newspapers and magazines including the Radio Times and other publications nationwide. 

Meanwhile the television advert will be live for a second year and is already being featured on screens internationally. The advertisement can be viewed here:

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The centenary of the Royal British Legion - do you remember George Arthur Roberts?

George Arthur Roberts was a founder member of the Royal British Legion in 1917 and the Royal British Legion are looking for anyone who may have memories of his work for the Camberwell Branch he founded in 1940.  He wrote about his work for them in a 1961 edition of the legion magazine when he recalled "The Battle of Westminster Bridge".  He was  a president of the Camberwell branch and was made a life member of the branch in 1962. 

If you have any information on George Arthur Roberts and his work for the British Legion, please use the contact sheet below to get in touch. 

Pictures: The Royal British Legion makes brief mention of Roberts in its September 2020 issue commemorating VJ day. Photograph: George Roberts mans a poppy  stall with mayor and mayoress of Southwark Arthur and Bess Chambers in 1966. (Thanks to Margaret Fairman and Don Chambers for this information)

Honouring The Keys - the journal of London's first
anti-racism organisation

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In 1931 doctor Harold Moody founded the League of Coloured Peoples (LCP) in London.  It is probably one of London's first anti-racist organisations and its founding chairman was George Arthur Roberts.  The Keys, the journal of the LCP, was first published in 1933 and in 1934 deputy editor Una Marson produced this hard-hitting poem based on her personal experiences of being racially abused in the street. It uses the language she was faced with and demonstrates the emotional impact of being called such words - a powerful statement of her experiences on the streets of London. For a time Marson edited The Keys and she was to become probably the first black woman producer at the BBC. In tribute to her work a blue plaque was erected in her memory at Brunswick Square in Camberwell where she lived for a while. 

You can watch examples of some of the programmes she created on YouTube.

Previous events commemorating George Arthur Roberts and his life 2016-2018


Blue Plaque Unveiling

September 11 2016

Roberts wins the Southwark News competition for a blue plaque at his Camberwell home. Watch film of the ceremony here: (with thanks to Wood Green Films) and (with thanks to Kevin Goggin)


Red Plaque unveiling
April 2018

Honouring Roberts's work for the Auxiliary Fire Service, The London Fire Brigade, Fire Brigades Union and London fire chief Dany Cotton unveiled a plaque at New Cross Fire Station, where Roberts won his British Empire Medal for his service. Watch the ceremony here: (With thanks to Kevin Goggin)

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Festival of Remembrance November 2018

Held at the Royal Albert Hall, this commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I honoured veterans including Roberts with their descendants gathered by the BBC and joining cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason in a poignant moment of remembrance. Watch it here:

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Welcome to our website

Thank you for visiting our website.  My name is Samantha Harding and I am the great granddaughter of George Arthur Roberts.

      I am hoping that this website will become a point at which we in the family can share all we know about George Arthur Roberts and receive information from anyone who remembers him and wants to contribute memories, writings, impressions or historical records that could help us all find out more about him and his life. 

       We also hope that if there are any events, talks or other landmarks we can publicise these events here. 

       As this website developes, we will be looking to add more content by Roberts himself as well as by and about other family members.

We hope you enjoy this website.

Samantha Harding


Do you have any memories of George Arthur Roberts? Are you holding a special event around his life? Do you need a family member to attend your event? Please contact us and we can try to assist you and feature your news on this website (Please use the contact form below)

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