Roebuck, Owen C.B.E., Q.H.C. (1899-1981)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

OWEN ROEBUCK, C.B.E., Q.H.C.: born in Penistone, Yorkshire on 21st March 1899. After service in the Royal Navy during the 1914-18 war, he was accepted for the Primitive Methodist ministry in 1922 and following a year’s pre-collegiate service in the Chesterfield (1) Circuit, he was trained at Hartley College.

When he had completed only two years ministry in the Cambridge Circuit, in response to an approach to the Methodist Church from the Royal Navy, Owen was chosen to be the first full-time Free-Church Chaplain to the Navy. This pioneering ministry began in 1927 with an experimental appointment to the Mediterranean Fleet. After six years based at Malta, he was transferred to the Training Establishment at Portsmouth; H.M.S. Ganges, where he spent the difficult and dangerous war years. After a second Mediterranean Tour, he was promoted to the Admiralty as Principal Free Church Chaplain, where he completed twenty-eight years of magnificent service, officially recognised first by the award of the O.B.E., then of the C.B.E. in the New Year’s Honours of 1955.

On his retirement from the Royal Navy, he became Superintendent of the Bromley (Kent) Circuit in response to an appeal from them, when their Superintendent, the Rev. F. R. Ducker, was made Chairman of the District. Superannuating after six years at Bromley, he became Chaplain to Farnborough Hospital and then to Biggin Hill Royal Air Force Station, finally retiring at eighty years of age. 

The records themselves indicate a ministry of singular significance, broad dimensions and incredible durability. Yet throughout it all, Owen Roebuck remained the most self-effacing, generously kind and warmly compassionate of men. Primarily, it was his deeply caring humanity which made him such a greatly loved pastor and effective minister of the gospel among ‘all sorts and conditions of men’, within the Services, the Methodist Church and beyond. In this he was perfectly partnered by his wife Celia, together, creating a home and a family which was freely shared with hundreds of service personnel who became part of their very large extended family. Their Golden Wedding celebrations were shadowed by the distressing illness and death of their daughter Sylvia. Yet sustained by their family and surrounded by a crowd of caring friends, they continued to live out that faith in their Lord with which they had influenced and inspired so many others in testing situations. 

Owen died on 23rd June 1981 in the eighty-third year of his life and the fifty-seventh year of his ministry.


Owen was born on 21 March 1899 at Penistone, Yorkshire, to parents Julian, a stone mason, and Elizabeth.

He married Hannah Smith (1905-1982) in the summer of 1930 at Grassmoor Hasland PM Chapel, Derbyshire. Birth records identify two children.

  • Sylvia Joan (b1932) – married Brian M Hodkinson in 1955
  • Margaret Joyce (b1936) – married Alan Ernest Tompkins in 1959

Owen died on 23 June 1981 at Orpington, Kent.


  • 1922 Chesterfield
  • 1924 Hartley
  • 1926 Cambridge
  • 1928 Chaplain, Royal Navy
  • 1956 Bromley Com
  • 1957 Bromley
  • 1962 Orpington (S)


Methodist Minutes 1982/81

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

Comments about this page

  • Owen and Celia Roebuck had a son who was born 15th October 1947. He attended Prior’s Court Prep School, Chieveley, near Newbury and Kingswood School, Bath. He was a friend of mine at school and on occasion I met both his parents.

    By Robin Percival (01/09/2021)

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