Case study

WW1 Canadian VC recipient James Peter Robertson

The story of Canadian First World War Victoria Cross recipient James Peter Robertson.

James Peter Robertson
Credit: National Defence Canada

70 men from Canada received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, during the First World War. As part of the Centenary Commemorations the people of the United Kingdom marked their gratitude to those courageous men by presenting a bronze memorial plaque to their home country engraved with their names. The plaque is now displayed at the British High Commission Ottawa. This archive tells their stories.

Name: James Peter Robertson

DOB: 26 October 1883

Place of Birth: Pictou County, Novia Scotia,

Date of Action: 6 November 1917

Place of Action: Passchendaele, Belgium

Rank: Private

Regiment: 7th Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expedition Force

James Robertson was born in Pictou County in Novia Scotia on 26 October 1883. He was working as an engineer in the Canadian Pacific Railways when he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915. Robertson was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for actions during the final assault on Passchendaele on 6 November 1917 with the 27th Infantry Battalion. His citation reads:

For most conspicuous bravery and outstanding devotion to duty in attack. When his platoon was held up by uncut wire and a machine gun causing many casualties, Pte. Robertson dashed to an opening on the flank, rushed the machine gun and, after a desperate struggle with the crew, killed four and then turned the gun on the remainder, who, overcome by the fierceness of his onslaught, were running towards their own lines. His gallant work enabled the platoon to advance. He inflicted many more casualties among the enemy, and then carrying the captured machine gun, he led his platoon to the final objective. He there selected an excellent position and got the gun into action, firing on the retreating enemy who by this time were quite demoralised by the fire brought to bear on them. During the consolidation Pte. Robertson’s most determined use of the machine gun kept down the fire of the enemy snipers; his courage and his coolness cheered his comrades and inspired them to the finest efforts. Later, when two of our snipers were badly wounded in front of our trench, he went out and carried one of them in under very severe fire. He was killed just as he returned with the second man.

Private Robertson is buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery. In 2012 the Canadian Coast Guard launched a Hero-class patrol vessel named in his honour.

Published 20 June 2016