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Obituary: Colonel Robbie Hall QGM (1956–2020)

April 2021 | by John Tredgett

Colonel Robbie Hall
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Baptist minister and bomb disposal expert Colonel Robbie Hall has died aged 63. He diffused a World War 2 bomb at a London gasworks in 1986. Following retirement from the Army, he pastored Hope Baptist Church in Bridgend, South Wales.

Robert George Russel Hall was born in Spinningdale in the Scottish Highlands. He joined the Army in 1973 and served with the Royal Engineers in Northern Ireland, Germany, Canada, the Falklands, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.

Robbie specialised in bomb disposal, and in 1986 his services made the headlines.

A 500kg bomb had been discovered at the bottom of a gas tower in Beckton, East London. Robbie, a Major at the time, was called upon to deal with it.

Wearing diving gear and accompanied by two other servicemen, he was winched down to an oily sump at the bottom of the 100-foot structure. Somewhere beneath the surface, an unexploded bomb – dropped 45 years earlier during the Blitz – needed to be located and neutralised.

During the dive, Robbie encountered serious breathing difficulties due to the oily conditions. Although devoid of a Christian background, Robbie recalls praying in that moment that God would help him.

Robbie did manage to clear the obstruction in his breathing apparatus, and eventually the bomb was discovered and safely diffused. All three men involved were awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.

At this point Robbie’s belief in God was little more than lip service, but later some Christian friends impressed upon him the difference between knowing about God and knowing God through Christ.

Another turning point occurred during a posting to the Falklands in 1988. During a series of Bible studies on Romans held at a military base, Robbie sat at the back, listened intently, and finally came to a saving knowledge of the gospel.

Robbie retired from the Army in 2011 and later began ministry training at South Wales Baptist College in Cardiff. Ordained in 2018, he became pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Bridgend.

Sadly, his service in the church was brief due to the onset of an aggressive form of cancer in 2019, a ‘bombshell of another kind’, he wryly recalled.

Despite treatment, Robbie passed away in November, survived by his wife, Helen, and three sons: Ben, Jamie, and Tom.

A few months before his passing, Robbie reflected on death in the light of his faith: ‘The number of years we have in this life is not the critical factor – it’s using the time we have to come to a living faith Christ, so that our eternity is secure in him.’