The Gordons

Lieutenant-Colonel William Robertson VC CBE

William Robertson was a sergeant-major at the time that he won his Victoria Cross, at the battle of Elandslaagte on 21st Oct 1899. During the final advance on the enemy position he led successive rushes against the Boers, in full view of the enemy rifles and artillery, encouraging the men of the 2nd Battalion Gordons. When the objective had been accomplished he commanded a group of men who captured General Kock's camp. They held that position despite heavy crossfire from Boer rifles. He continued to encourage his men and was wounded in two places. This second act of courage was observed by Colonel Ian Hamilton who wrote: 'No better VC was ever won than William Robertson's. There was no vainglory about it, but the danger was incurred in a cool and reasoned spirit for a military end of real importance.'

He was born at Dumfries on 27th Feb 1865 and educated there. He joined the army on 1st Dec 1884 and served in India with the 1st Battalion. He transferred to the 2nd Battalion and went to South Africa with them in 1899. On his return to the UK, to recover from his wounds, he was given the Freedom of the Royal Burgh of Dumfries and presented with his medal at Osborne House, by the Queen. In the London Gazette 20th Jul 1900 his award is announced, and also states that Roberton had been promoted to Honorary Lieutenant and Quartermaster.

He married Sara Ferris in Belfast on 29th Mar 1891. They had 4 children, William, Marion, Jan and Hector. Jan joined the Gordon Highlanders but was killed in the First World War at Beaumont Hamel. Robertson served in the War as Recruiting Staff Officer. By 1918 he was a Lieutenant-Colonel and was awarded the OBE, later upgraded to CBE. He lived through the Second World War and died on 6th Dec 1949 at Edinburgh.

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by Stephen Luscombe