|19 Nov 2020|
|Archives & History|
Lieut. Neil Robertson, Military Cross and Bar
Neil Robertson of the Royal Scots Fusiliers was killed in action in France on 2 September 1918. He was 20 years old. He left Bishops at the age of 18 to join up. In his very few months in France, he won the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry, was wounded, returned, won a bar to his Cross, and was killed. Without a doubt, he was a soldier born, like his late father before him. Shortly before going to Sandhurst in 1916 for training, he had played forward for the First Fifteen. The magazine reports: though rather light, he was a very plucky forward and good in the loose. His award of the MC came under the following circumstances. It appears that he and three men volunteered to search for some Germans who were hiding in an orchard. When the Germans came out they fired at them and killed two. Eventually, the other three men returned to the trenches so that Neil had to return for more volunteers to finish the job. This they did successfully and we hear that this piece of work was of great importance and helped the men to get their objective (September 1918 Bishops magazine).
Lieut. Neil Robertson
The following is his last letter home, written on 27 August – just a few days before his death. It gives a very vivid and inspiring picture of life on the Western Front during the Allied offensive which ended so gloriously on 11/11. This is an account of his experiences at the Front for which he was awarded a Bar to his Cross.
‘We are still out of the line and I feel in a talkative mood, so I shall tell you of my experiences over the top. On the night of 19/20th, we left our billets and did a seven or eight-mile march into a little wood nearer the line. We lay there all the 20th and moved up to the support trenches next night (20th/21st) at about 11.00 p.m. We lay in the trenches till about 4.00 a.m., and then the word was passed along to get ready to move. We then filed out of the trenches and then lined up in No Man’s Land. B and D Companies in front (I am in D) and A and C in support. We stood there till 4.30 a.m. (a matter of about two minutes later) when suddenly, crash! crump! crump! down came our artillery barrage on the German first line, and we moved forward a bit. A tremendously thick fog had come up and you could not see more than five yards in front of you. After I had been going for about two minutes I got separated from the others with my platoon and completely lost, but I knew the general line of advance and so stumbled on. Suddenly four Huns jumped up in front of me, terrified out of their lives, and shrieking ‘Kamerad!’
My men relieved them of souvenirs and sent them down the line with a few lusty kicks. A tank then lumbered up through the mist and we followed it and ran into some more of the Battalion. We all advanced with the tank until we came to a Hun machine-gun nest, which fired on us very hard. The tank advanced on it, and about 50 Huns surrendered when the tank was a few yards off. ‘We then came to the village we had to take. We re-organised a bit and plunged into the outskirts of the village. German machine-guns started from a few cellars and places, but our boys had their tails well up and rushed these places, throwing bombs down the cellars, whereupon the Huns would come rushing up to be taken prisoner or killed. We got the village and then had to press on to an objective, which was a railway embankment.
Just as we got clear of the village machine guns opened on us from all over the place and my runner, who was next to me, got a bullet right through the chest. We advanced on the guns by short rushes, with a tank or two lumbering on in front looking for them. ‘The men were quite mad by this time, and when we got within twenty yards or so of them some bright spark started doing my job and shouted: “Rush the… Huns”. And away we went. Up jumped the Huns shrieking “Kamerad! Kamerad!” for all they were worth, but some of them had left it till too late. After that, we got the embankment without much difficulty – about 150 Huns surrendering from the dugouts in it. We then dug ourselves in and prepared to hold the place until we were relieved. What we had got before was child’s play to what we got in that railway cutting. Our own artillery dropped shells short on us: ‘Jerry’ threw rifle grenades, trench mortars and shells at us, his aeroplanes fired down on us and, to crown all, in the evening he gained a footing on the railway about a mile up to our right and hurried M.G.’s down the line. If there was a hell on earth, it was that cutting. We held it for two days and a night when we were relieved. ‘The men were beyond all praise and, although the cutting was awful, I would not have missed it for anything. ‘Everyone is in high spirits, but the casualties make you a bit fed up. D Company went in 168 strong and came out 48, so you can see that chasing the Hun is not all ‘jam for Tommy’. Still, we are winning the war now and we will soon have him beat to the wide, and then me for a jolly good slack!’
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.