b. 06/05/1890 Hurlford, East Ayrshire, Scotland. d. 07/05/1931 Irvine, Scotland
Ross Anderson Tollerton (1890-1931) was born at the Constabulary Office, Hurlford, Ayrshire, Scotland on 6th May 1890. His father was James Tollerton, a Police Sergeant, who married three times. His first wife was Isabella Thomson who died in 1883. Ross’ mother was his second wife, Jane Anderson who married James on 25th April 1884 in Dalmellington, Ayrshire. When Ross was just 5, on 1st September 1895, his mother gave birth to an unnamed child at Kilwinning, Ayrshire. Sadly, the child died just an hour after birth, and his mother developed puerperal fever and died on 3rd September. James then married a third time, when Ross was 8, to Janet Gillespie, a domestic servant. By 1901, the family were living at 61 East Road, Irvine, and by 1908 James had become an insurance agent. Ross had two brothers and a sister, plus two half/step brothers and two half-sisters from his father’s first and third marriages. He was educated at Montgomery School in Irvine, which was previously attended by Harry Ranken VC.
Ross enlisted in the 1st Battalion, The Royal Scots Fusiliers at Kilwinning in October 1905. He served in South Africa from 1906 and Hong Kong, North China and India from 1909-1912, until he was transferred to the Reserve. He was then initially employed in Irvine Shipyard as an engine keeper and later labourer. Ross married Agnes nee Muir, a tailoress, on Boxing Day 1913 at 4 Kirkgate, Irvine. They had no children.
When the Great War broke out, Ross was recalled and reported to Inverness, then Edinburgh. He joined the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, which was unusual as Reservists generally returned to their old regiments, and he arrived in France on 14th August 1914. On 14th September 1914 at the First Battle of the Aisne, France, near Chivy, Private Tollerton carried a wounded officer (Lieutenant J. S. M. Matheson), under heavy fire, as far as he was able, into a place of greater safety. Then, although he himself was wounded in the head and hand, he struggled back to the firing line where he remained until his battalion retired. He then returned to the wounded officer and stayed with him for three days until they were both rescued.
Ross was invalided back to Scotland, where he recuperated at Invergordon. His Victoria Cross was gazetted on 19th April 1915, and on 18th May 1915, he was presented with his medal by King George V at Glasgow Green. When he was fit again, Ross returned to the Western Front and was promoted to Sergeant. After discharge from the Regular Army in 1919 he joined the Irvine Company, Royal Scots Fusiliers and later became a Company Sergeant Major.
In civilian employment, Ross was a janitor at Bank Street School, Irvine. He was a Freemason (Irvine St Andrew’s Lodge No 149). As the local VC holder, he laid the first wreath at Irvine’s new War Memorial in 1921. He died at his home at 15 High Street, Irvine on 7th April 1931, the day after his 41st birthday, and he was buried in Knadgerhill Cemetery, Irvine with full military honours. Major James Sutherland Mackay Matheson, who Tollerton saved at Chivy, attended his funeral.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, and Victory Medal 1914-19. The medals were left to his stepmother in his will and she successfully sued his widow for possession of them. His medals are now held and displayed by the Queen’s Own Highlanders Museum, Fort George, Inverness-shire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: QUEENS OWN HIGHLANDERS REGIMENT MUSEUM, FORT GEORGE.
BURIAL PLACE: KNADGERHILL CEMETERY, IRVINE, SCOTLAND. SECTION C, LAIR 104.
Ross Tollerton's medals on display at the Queens Own Highlanders Museum, Fort George, Inverness-shire, Scotland.
(Picture courtesy of Thomas Stewart).
Updated display in 2015
War Illustrated, 15th September 1917
Irvine, Scotland - Thomas Stewart