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ROBERTSON, John Charles MC VD (1894-1942) +

ROBERTSON, John Charles MC VD (1894-1942)

John Charles Robertson was born on 28 October 1894, the son of George Archibald Robertson and Jessie Mary Ethel nee Neilson.

He was enrolled as a day student at Geelong College in 1909, leaving that same year. His address at the time was 17 Elizabeth St, Geelong.

During World War I, he enlisted (No. 3291) in the AIF with 23 Battalion on 23 July 1915, and embarked as an Acting Sergeant on HMAT A68 Anchises on 26 August 1915 for Egypt and Gallipoli. After The Evacuation he embarked for France, where he transferred to 6th Light Trench Mortar Battery. He was awarded the Military Cross, gazetted on 18 July 1917, for which the citation read:
'For conspicuous gallantry in command of a Mortar detachment in the captured trenches near Bullecourt on 3 May 1917 and the coolness in which he kept his guns in action against hostile counter attacks. He succeeded in constructing an effective Minenwerfer out of two broken ones in the first German trench and used it with great effect firing over 230 rounds. His work was of great assistance to both the Sixth and First Brigades.'

The Pegasus of August 1919 reported:
'A cable has been received from Jack Robertson, MC, to the effect that he has been given the opportunity to qualify for the Diploma of Forestry in the Edinburgh University, by March. We wish hirn luck.'

The AWM Collection holds a group portrait of the 6th Light Trench Mortar Battery, taken at Querrieu, France, 27 June 1918 which includes J C Robertson.

'Jack' Robertson returned to Australia on 5 January 1920 on HMT Ypiringa.

In 1922 he married Margaret Dorothy Aikman, the daughter of Alexander and Margaret Knight Aikman, of West Geelong. 'A pleasant, likeable and capable man-manager, he worked as a fuel merchant and garage proprietor in Geelong, and gave long years of service between the wars to the Militia, in which he was commanding a battalion in 1939.'

During World War II, he again enlisted (VX38973) in the 2nd AIF on 29 October 1940.

Lieutenant Colonel J C Robertson, died of wounds suffered on 18 January 1942 at the Battle of Muar in Malaya while cornmanding the 2/29th Battalion.
Lionel Wigmore described this battle in 'The Japanese Thrust' :
'At midday an armoured car patrol sent from Bakri towards the 2/29th Battalion position reported having encountered a road-block, and having been fired upon from both sides of the road. As Robertson had been promised that Sumner's1 company would be returned to his positions, it was sent with carrier, armoured car, and mortar support, to dispose of the block and rejoin the battalion. Its initial attack failed but eventually, with the aid of platoons led by Lieutenant Glasson2 and Sergeant Lloyd Davies3, Sumner's company got through, leaving the road free of obstruction. The company found Major Olliff4 now in command, for Robertson and a dispatch rider on whose machine the commander was riding pillion also had encountered a road-block. Although both were wounded they had managed to get to within a hundred yards of battalion headquarters before Robertson fell off. He was picked up by a carrier in charge of Lt Gahan which rushed to his rescue, but died half an hour later. Trucks which came through with Sumner's company were sent back to Bakri carrying wounded men.'

Jack Robertson's name is commemorated on the Kranji War Cemetery, Special Memorial 20.A.12.

His brother, George Ewen Robertson (1908-1974), and son, Alexander John Robertson (1923-2011), were also educated at Geelong College.

1 Captain A B Sumner, of Geelong West, born 5 January 1915, was missing presumed dead on 13 September 1944.
2 David James Russell Glasson, 2/19th Battalion, born at Blayney, NSW, on 7 August 1920, was missing presumed dead on 22 January 1942.
3 Lloyd Davies, 2/19th Battalion, born at Leeton, SW, on 19th August 1919, was missing presumed dead on 22 January 1942.
4 Sydney Francis Olliff, 2/29th Battalion, born in London on 17 June 1905, and a resident of Toorak, was killed in action on 19 January 1942.

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. p296-297 (citing Lionel Wigmore, Australia in the War of 1939-1945: The Japanese Thrust; The Pegasus; National Archives; Australian War Memorial).
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