b. 26/10/1883 Albion Mines, Nova Scotia, Canada. d. 06/11/1917 Passchendaele, Belgium.
James Peter Robertson (1883-1917) was born on 26th October 1883 at Albion Mines, Stellarton, Picton, Nova Scotia. He was known as Peter, Pete or Singing Pete. His father, Alexander Robertson, was born in Nova Scotia of Scottish parents. He married Janet, and they moved to Springhill, Nova Scotia in c.1887 and later Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1899. Sadly, Alexander died before his son enlisted in 1916. They had a large family of twelve children including Peter.
Peter was educated in Springhill, Nova Scotia. He was then employed as a fireman with the Canadian Pacific Railway at Medicine Hat, Alberta and later transferred to Lethbridge as a locomotive engineer. He enlisted in 13th Canadian Mounted Rifles at Fort Macleod, Alberta on 14th June 1915. Shortly after enlisting he was in uniform with some comrades when a sneering pro-German bystander asked if they were just after a meal ticket. Peter promptly stepped over and punched the man! After a year of training, he departed for England aboard RMS Olympic on 6th July 1916.
On 19th July he was taken on strength by Lord Strathcona’s Horse Reserve Regiment, Canadian Corps Depot, Shorncliffe, Kent before going into the 11th Reserve Infantry Battalion and was despatched to the Canadian Base Depot, Le Havre on 28th September. He then contracted influenza and then syphilis which put him in hospital until February 1917.
When not in hospital, Peter was in the thick of the action. On one occasion the dugout in which he was sheltering was collapsed by enemy artillery fire, burying him and his comrades alive. They remained trapped until their comrades arrived and dug them out. On another occasion there had been heavy losses and some men were sheltering in a shell hole. When they began to give up hope, Peter jumped amongst them and lifted their morale with jokes and lively banter.
On 6th November 1917 at Passchendaele, Belgium, when his platoon was held up by a machine-gun, Private Robertson rushed the gun, killed four of the crew and then turned the gun on the remainder. After inflicting more casualties and carrying the captured gun, he led his platoon to the final position and got the gun into action, firing on the retreating enemy. During the consolidation his use of the machine-gun kept down the enemy sniper fire. Later when two of the snipers on his own side were wounded, he went out and carried one of them in under heavy fire but he was killed by a shell just as he returned with the second man.
Peter was buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele, and tributes poured in after his death. In Cleveland, Ohio, 77,000 delegates at an international railway convention saluted his courage. The Canadian Pacific Railway displayed his photograph in Montreal Railway Station and he was included in the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame. As he never married, his posthumous VC was presented to his mother by Robert George Brett, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, at Medicine Hat, Alberta on 25th April 1918.
In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. As he died on operational duty his next of kin was also eligible to receive the Canadian Memorial Cross. This was posted to his mother on 17th December 1921. His medal group is owned privately.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: TYNE COT CEMETERY, PASSCHENDAELE, BELGIUM.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT LVIII, ROW D, GRAVE 26
Medicine Hat Legion, Canada