Clement Robertson

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa

General information

Last known residence:
Struan Hill, Delgany, County Wicklow, Ireland, United Kingdom
Civil engineer, Egyptian irrigation service
Church of England

Army information

British Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Epsom, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
 —  Tank Corps, 1st Bn.  (Attached)
 —  Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment), 3rd Bn. (Reserve)  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Robertson's Bridge, Zonnebeke, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Oxford Road Cemetery
Plot: III
Row: F
Grave: 7

Distinctions and medals 3

Points of interest 4

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Enlistment place
#4 Place of death (approximate)

My story

Clement was born in November 1889 in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, in South-Africa. He was brought up in a Irish military family. His father, John Albert Robertson, was a Major in the Royal Artillery, hailing from Delgany, in County Wicklow. His mother, Frances Octavia Caroline Wynne, was the daughter of an Army Captain, from Dublin.

Clement was educated at Trinity College in Dublin, where he obtained an engineering degree. After his studies, he worked as a civil engineer in Egypt on a Nile irrigation project for the Egyptian government. When war broke out, Clement went back to England and took up residence at The Gables in Ewell, Surrey. On 8 October 1914, he joined the 19th Battalion (2nd Public Schools) of the Royal Fusiliers at Epsom, Surrey. At the turn of the year, he was nominated for a position as a second lieutenant. He was gazetted and joined the 3rd Battalion, Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) in January 1915 and served from May 1915 in France and Flanders. In June 1915, he was hospitalised in Le Havre, Normandy. In January 1917, Clement was appointed acting captain in the Tank Corps.

He saw action during the Battle of Messines. His tank supported the 140th Brigade of the 41st Division and advanced along the Ypres-Comines Canal from Arundel through the German first line of defence to the White Chateau Stables and on to Opal Reserve Trench, the German second line. On the way, Clement's tank was hit by a German shell, killing his sergeant William Clegg and seriously wounding two crew members. Unable to continue, Clement pulled his tank back to the assembly point. They took the remains of 32-year-old William with them, who was buried at Dikkebusch New Military Cemetery.

A couple of months later, on 4 October 1917 No. 12 section of the 1st Battalion of the Tank Corps was allotted to the 54th Infantry Brigade of the 21st Division, for the attack on Juniper Wood and the hamlet of Reutel, east of the infamous Polygon Wood. From September 30th till October 4th Captain Clement Robertson had worked without a break. He and his orderly, Gunner Cyril Sheldon Allen, taped the route from Observatory Ridge to Stirling Castle and then to Black Watch Corner, under heavy shell fire. He managed to direct his Tanks to the frontline, under very trying circumstances.

Four tanks of the 12th section left from Black Watch Corner. One tank was knocked out by a German shell three minutes after leaving the starting point. The three other tanks followed the road along Polygon Wood. Limited visibility combined with the lack of landmarks in the devastated landscape made it very difficult for the tanks to find their way. Captain Robertson, well aware of this risk, led the tanks on foot towards Cameron Covert and the Joist Farm area, where the Infantry had been held up. He continued to lead his tanks towards their objectives, despite the tanks facing heavy German fire. Thanks to Captain Robertson, all three tanks reached their objectives. They provided great assistance to the infantry by knocking out fortified German positions, along the way, that were holding up the advance. The No. 12 Section tanks were vital to the success of the attack.

Captain Clement Robertson, aged only 26, was killed by machine-gun fire near the bridge over the Reutel stream while leading his tanks with the first wave of infantry. The bridge was renamed Robertson's Bridge in 2017. A memorial stands nearby. After crossing the stream, the tanks were able to continue their way along the paved road towards Reutel. Clement was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, for very outstanding bravery in leading his tanks under heavy shell, machine gun and rifle fire over terrain that had been heavily ploughed by shell fire. Clement is probably buried in Oxford Road Cemetery, in the hamlet of Wieltje.

Files 3

Sources 5

4 Brigade Tank Corps: 1 Battalion Tank Corps (The National Archives, Kew (TNA), WO 95/109/4).
Sources used
Captain Clement ROBERTSON. The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment). (The National Archives, Kew (TNA), WO 339/30688).
Sources used
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901 (The National Archives, Kew (TNA), RG13).
Sources used
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911 (The National Archives, Kew (TNA), RG14).
Sources used
Melville Henry Massue, de Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, 1914-1919: a Biographical Record of All Members of His Majesty's Naval and Military Forces Who Have Fallen in the War (Uckfield, Naval & Military Press, 2010), 3: 233.
Sources used

More information 3