Wednesday, 29 August 2018

39721 Lieutenant Thomas Gilbert Robertson, 13/8/1888-22/8/1918

LIEUTENANT Robertson. Lieutenant Thomas Gilbert Robertson, whose mother and wife reside at St. Clair, Dunedin, was killed in action in France on August 22. He left with the 25th reinforcements about 14 months ago. As a teacher, as a Cadet officer, and as a first-class swimmer — one of the best in the St. Clair Surf Club, — as a keen cricketer, he was widely known and very much liked, he was married two years ago to Miss Gurr, who has lost two brothers at the war. He was born in l888, received most of his primary and secondary education at Milton D.H. School, put in his year at the Training College in 1906, was appointed secondary assistant at Naseby in 1907, became assistant in the secondary department at Balclutha D.H, School in November of 1909, and resigned that position in September, 1911, to join the Otago Boys' High School staff. He was a fine big, manly man. While at Balclutha the deceased became widely popular among all those connected with the school and the various sports bodies in the town. He was an active member of the Balclutha football, cricket and tennis clubs, and a keen swimmer.  -Clutha Leader, 3/9/1918.

Thomas left New Zealand for England in July of 1917 and arrived with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in France in time for the BattlE of 3rd Ypres, otherwise known as Paesschendaele.   At the end of that year he was wounded in action, taking a bullet to the left hip just before the Brigade was releived and spent time in support behind the line.

Four months of hospital and convalescence later, Thomas was back with the Rifles at the end of July, 1918, just in time for the part of the Great War known as "The advance to Victory."




(Special from the New Zealand War Correspondent.) HEADQUARTERS IN FRANCE, August 24. This morning at half-past one (ordinary time) the attack launched on tbe 21st by General Byng, after a comparative lull for one day, broke out with renewed intensity. It was a brilliant moonlight night, and 'planes hummed above while artillery thundered below. Following a splendid barrage, forward went infantry from several divisions. A rifle brigade still represented New Zealand, though another battalion had relieved one that had already taken a successful part in the advance. We continued to hold our narrow front on the Ancre and defensive flank on the right to join up with a British division that had trouble with a strong point known as Beauregard-Dovecote. It was decided that the Dovecote must fall this morning, and, while the English were attacking it. our men advanced due east between the Dovecote and the village of Irles. from across the Ancre came a lot of machine-gun fire, and our men suffered some casualties, but these were really light. Only two companies were concerned in this. Fighting at night always makes it difficult to stop ( exactly on an objective, and our men in their keenness went at least four hundred yards further than they need have gone. However, having gone so far, they decided to hold on to the ground gained. 


A difficult situation arose in consequence. At daylight they found themselves sitting in a valley, with the enemy commanding their position from a ridge very much like Gheluvelt, as was the case during the fight for Polderhoek Chateau last year. Then it was ascertained that there was another attack to be made at eleven o'clock in this immediate vicinity, and that their position was 200 yards inside the area on which the barrage was due to come down, it became a case of crawling out under German machine-gun fire or remaining to be shelled by friendly artillery. As soon as the position was known a messenger crept back and succeeded in getting word to advanced brigade headquarters, so that the barrage, which was now unnecessary for this bit of ground, was stopped in time. Thus all ended well, and the New Zealanders at small cost had gained a depth of 700 yards on a frontage of 800.  -Auckland Star, 27/8/1918.

It can be reasonably assumed that part of that "small cost" was Lieutenant Thomas Gilbert Robertson.

Anderson Bay Cemetery, Dunedin.  Allan steel photo.

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