Clement Robertson VC

b. 15/11/1889 Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. d. 04/10/1917 Zonnebeke, Belgium.

Clement Robertson (1889-1917) was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on 15th November 1889 (sometimes seen as 15th December 1890). His father, John Albert Robertson, trained at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery on 6th January 1872. He was promoted to Captain in 1881 and Major in 1888. In 1889 he was serving in Natal in the Mountain Artillery and retired in 1893. He married Frances Octavia Caroline Wynne, born in Collon, County Louth, Ireland, at St Matthias’s Church, Dublin on 29th June 1881. Clement was one of five brothers (William Cairnes, Albert John, Frederick Wynne and Charles Wyndham).

Clement Robertson VC

Clement was educated at Hill House School, Filsham Road, Hastings, at the East India Company College (Haileybury College) from 1904-1906 and Trinity College, Dublin (BA BAI Engineering 1909). He and his four brothers were keen golfers and were founder members of the Delgany Golf Club. Clement won the President’s Cup in the first year it was played for in 1908. In 1911, he was a boarder at Croft House, part of Cotherston, Darlington while an articled pupil to a civil engineer engaged on waterworks. He was employed as a civil engineer with the Egyptian Irrigation Service for three years and returned to England on the outbreak of war.

He enlisted in 19th Royal Fusiliers (2nd Public Schools) on 8th October 1914 and joined at Epsom. He applied for a commission on 30th December 1914 and was commissioned on 16th January 1915 in 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). He was attached to the Royal Engineers from June 1916 to February 1917, then the Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps from March 1917 and was attached to the Tank Corps from September 1917.

At Messines, Belgium on 7th June 1917, his tank A56 was hit by a 5.9” shell, which killed Sergeant Clegg and wounded two other crew. Although A56 was badly damaged, he brought it back to base and was later appointed to command 12 Section in 3 Company.

On 4th October 1917 at Zonnebeke, Belgium, Captain Robertson led his tanks in attack under heavy shell, machine-gun and rifle fire over ground which had been ploughed by shell-fire. He and his batman had spent the previous three days and nights going back and forth over the ground, reconnoitering and taping routes, and, knowing the risk of the tanks missing the way, he now led them on foot, guiding them carefully towards their objective, although he must have known that this action would almost certainly cost him his life. He was killed after the objective had been reached, but his skilful leading had already ensured success.

Clement’s body was recovered and he was buried in Oxford Road Cemetery, Ypres. As he never married, his VC was presented to his mother by Brigadier General C Williams CB, Commanding Dublin District, at the Royal Barracks Dublin on 27th March 1918. In addition to the VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His medal was purchased in a private sale by Lord Ashcroft in 2023, and now on display in the Imperial War Museum. 






Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.

Paul Deeprose – Robertson’s name on the Haileybury College Memorial.

Aidan Kavanagh – Robertson VC Stone at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

Thomas Stewart – Image of the Victoria Cross medal on display at Imperial War Museum.