b. 17/05/1890 Tatura, Australia. d. 01/09/1918 Mont St Quentin, Peronne, France.
Robert “Bob” McTier (1890-1918) was born on 17th May 1890 at Tatura, Victoria, son of Scottish-born Robert Mactier, farmer, and his Victorian wife Christina, née Ross. Seventh child in a close-knit Presbyterian family of ten, he was educated at Tatura State School and later worked on his father’s properties at Tatura and Caniambo. Stocky and athletic, he excelled at football and shooting; his ‘irrepressible sense of humour’ and ‘gentlemanly disposition’ made him popular among the locals.
Mactier enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force on 1st March 1917 and embarked for England with the 19th Reinforcements for the 23rd Battalion. After training he joined the battalion in France on 23rd November. Allotted to ‘B’ Company, in April 1918 he was in heavy fighting around Albert on the Somme and was gassed. In May he was a scout at company headquarters. He fought in the battle of Hamel in July and in the August offensive and on 22nd August wrote his last letter home. Victory was in sight: ‘if our side only keep going I think the war [will] be over by next spring’.
On 1st September, north of Péronne, Mactier earned his battalion’s only Victoria Cross. The 23rd was moving into position for the early morning assault on Mont St Quentin. With only twenty minutes left until zero hour, it was stopped by an enemy machine-gun behind a barbed-wire barricade. Two similar posts could be seen further on. An attack on the first position failed and Private Mactier, his company’s runner, was sent to investigate. Armed with bombs and a revolver, he ran forward, sized up the situation and dashed to the barricade. He threw a bomb, climbed over the wire and toppled the machine-gun out of the trench. His comrades then advanced, found the eight-man gun-crew dead and saw Mactier capturing all occupants of the next post. He charged the third post, bombing and killing the garrison and discovered yet another obstacle. To avoid wire in the trench he ran into the open and was rushing in for his fourth attack when shot by a gunner on his flank, though one of his friends said that he was ‘killed by concussion from a hand grenade’. Through his actions the assaulting companies filed into position just as the barrage fell on Mont St Quentin.
Mactier was buried nearby but was reinterred in the Hem Farm cemetery, Hem-Monacu. In noting his posthumous award the London Times praised his ‘exceptional valour and determination’, describing him as ‘a fine type of the wiry Colonial’. His mates, in their battalion newspaper, remembered him as ‘only one of the boys’ while his letters home are those of a genial unpretentious man. A radio series on V.C. winners, broadcast in 1936-37, ably summed him up: ‘Bob Mactier was typical of his kind, the countryman who became a soldier … a healthy man … well-behaved … quiet and unassuming; he had nothing spectacular in his make-up’. In 1983 his family donated his V.C. to the Australian War Memorial. His name is commemorated in a soldier’s club at Watsonia Barracks, Melbourne, which also holds a bronze bust by Wallace Anderson. Mactier was unmarried. His brother David served in the 37th Battalion, A.I.F.
LOCATION OF MEDAL:AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA.
BURIAL PLACE: HEM FARM MILITARY CEMETERY, PERONNE, FRANCE.
PLOT II, ROW J, GRAVE 3.
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of the MacTier VC Medal Group at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.