Col J Forbes Robertson VC DSO MC Lafayette






Sphere Magazine Cover June 1918wb

Born at Brighouse in West Yorkshire on 7 July 1884 he was commissioned into the Border Regiment on 2nd March 1904 and joined the 1st Battalion at Plymouth in April 1904 and served in Gibraltar, India and Burma.

He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 31st August 1906 and Captain 3rd November 1914.

At the outbreak of WW1 he was the Transport Officer of the 1st Battalion the Border Regiment  and served with them at Gallipoli where he was wounded in action on 8th May 1915 with gun-shot wound to the shoulder.

He returned to duty at Gallipoli on 16th June as OC for B Company. He was appointed a Staff Captain of 32 Brigade on 28th November and left the peninsula for Imbros on 20th December 1915. Briefly admitted to hospital in Alexandria in February 1916, he relinquished his staff job in May and returned to England joining the 3rd Battalion at Conway.

Promoted to Temporary Major, he went to France on 15 June 1916 and was posted to the 1st Newfoundland Regiment as their second-in-command and then appointed as their CO on 26 November 1916 was awarded the Military Cross (MC) for gallantry on the Somme and then Mentioned in Dispatches in 1917. He was then awarded the Distinguished Service Order as a Captain & Acting Lieutenant Colonel in command of the Newfoundland Regiment on 14th April 1917 “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of his battalion during an enemy attack. He collected all the men he could find and, taking up a position on the outskirts of the village brought the hostile advance to an end by his fire. He undoubtedly saved a very critical situation by his promptness, bravery and example.”

Appointed Commanding Officer of The 16th Middlesex Battalion on the 14 August 1917. He visited 1 Border on the 28th October 1917 for Arroyo Day, when in command of the 16th Middlesex.

He Mentioned in Dispatches again in December 1917. He received a Bar to his DSO for action at Cambrai on 30 November 1917 “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led his battalion with great dash and determination in a successful attack. later, during continual enemy attacks, though he was wounded in the eye and unable to see, he was led about by an orderly among his men in the front line, encouraging and inspiring them by his magnificent example of courage and determination.”

He was Wounded again on 30th November 1917 and rejoined 1st Battalion as Major in February 1918.

As Captain Acting Lieutenant Colonel James Forbes Robertson DSO & Bar MC, he was awarded his Victoria Cross whilst in command of the 1st Battalion Border Regiment during the Battle of the Lys on 11th and 12th April 1918 near Neuf Berquin and Vieux Berquin, France.

The citation for the VC reads: “For most conspicuous bravery whilst commanding his Battalion during the heavy fighting. Through his quick judgement, resource, untiring energy, and magnificent example Lt.Col Forbes Robertson, on four separate occasions, saved the line from breaking and averted a situation which might have had the most serious and far reaching results.

On the first occasion, when troops in front were falling back, he made a rapid reconnaissance on horseback, in full view of the enemy under heavy machine gun and close range shell fire. He then organised and, still mounted, led a counter attack which was completely successful in re-establishing our line. When his horse was shot under him he continued on foot. Later on the same day, when troops to the left of his line were giving way, he went to the flank and checked and steadied the line, inspiring confidence by his splendid coolness and disregard of personal danger. His horse was wounded three times and he was thrown five times.

The following day, when the troops on both his flanks were forced to retire, he formed a post at Battalion HQ and with his Battalion still held his ground, thereby covering the retreat of troops on his flanks. Under the heaviest fire this gallant officer fearlessly exposed himself when collecting parties, organising and encouraging.

On a subsequent occasion, when troops were retiring on his left and the condition of things on his right were insecure, he again saved the situation by his magnificent example and cool judgement. Losing a second horse, he continued on foot until he had established a line to which his own troops could withdraw and so conform to the general situation.”

He was then Mentioned in Dispatches again in May 1918 and was a Brevet Lt-Col. He was then promoted to Major on the 3rd June 1918. Later becoming a Temporary Brigadier General commanding 87 Brigade 7th June, then appointed OC 155 Brigade in 52 Div on the 16 June.

He was back to command 1st Border Regiment on 23rd October 1918.

On the 30th December 1918 given command of the 5th Battalion at Ivoir on the Meuse and took the Battalion to Bonn as part of the Army of The Rhine.

He was posted to 2nd Battalion Border Regiment in Ireland in 1920 and given command of the Regimental Depot at the Castle in 1923.

He went on to Command 2nd Gordon Highlanders from 1926 and then commanded 152 Infandtry Brigade from 1932-34; DL County of Sutherland. He even Served in Home Guard WW2.

Colonel James Forbes Robertson VC DSO & Bar MC died on 5 August 1955.

Medals: Victoria Cross (VC), Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Bar, Military Cross (MC), 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory Medals with Mentioned In Dispatches, Defence Medal (WW2), 1937 and 1953 Coronation Medals.

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