William Robertson VC OBE

b. 27/02/1865 Dumfries, Scotland. d. 06/12/1949 Edinburgh, Scotland.

William Robertson (1865-1949) was born in Dumfries, Scotland on 27th February 1865, the son of John and Janet Robertson. He was educated locally in Dumfries, and joined the Army on 1st December 1884, enlisting with the Gordon Highlanders. He married on 29th March 1891, in Belfast, Ireland, to Sara Ferris, daughter of Mr and Mrs S Ferris. They went on to have four children: William J Robertson (born in 1892, and later was Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps), Marion M Robertson, Ian Gordon Robertson (born in 1897, a Second Lieutenant in the Gordon Highlanders, killed in action at Beaumont Hamel on the Somme in World War One), and Hector E Robertson.

William Robertson

William Robertson served for some years in India, and then landed in South Africa on 8th October 1899, two days before the Boer ultimatum to Britain, and proceeded to Ladysmith. During the defence of that town he fought and was wounded at the Battle of Elandslaagte, where he would later be gazetted for the Victoria Cross (20th July 1900).

At the Battle of Elandslaagte, on the 21st October, 1899, during the final advance on the enemy’s position, this Warrant Officer led each successive rush, exposing himself fearlessly to the enemy’s artillery and rifle fire to encourage the men. After the main position had been captured, he led a small party to seize the Boer camp. Though exposed to a deadly cross-fire from the enemy’s rifles, he gallantly held on to the position captured, and continued to encourage the men until he was dangerously wounded in two places.

Robertson returned to England due to his wounds suffered at Elandslaagte. He received his Victoria Cross from Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle, just over a month after his gazetting, on 25th August 1900. He was also awarded the Freedom of the Royal Burgh of Dumfries for his actions. He also received the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for Ladysmith, Elandslaagte and Cape Colony.

During the Great War, Robertson, who was too old to fight (despite wanting to), was a Recruiting Staff Officer in Edinburgh, for which he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and awarded the OBE. Robertson retired following the Great War, and lived in his native Scotland. He died on 6th December 1949, aged 84, in Edinburgh. He was laid to rest in Portobello Cemetery, Musselburgh, near Edinburgh. His medals are held by the National War Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.





Thomas Stewart – Image of the Robertson VC OBE Medal Group at the National War Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.