Of the ten men above mentioned, all are brave lads from Newfoundland. All but the tenth man. And it is he that I'll talk about today.
This regiment would become famous for its heroism and places like Ypres and Cambrai and would be the only British Regiment later in the war that received the British Government's honour by being allowed to add the Prefix...ROYAL to the beginning of their name whilst the war was still on-going. They also became known as the
But there was a justice. In 1967 I was promoted to Corporal! And while still remembering all those curse words. hehe. The Newfoundland Regiment's puttees are shown to the upper right, and those of the French army at Bottom right and the Germans at bottom left.
The date was 1 July 1916 and was the first day of the Battle for the Somme. Before the day was out the Regiment would be almost decimated. It and the Essex Regiment were moving eastbound while the Germans were heading westbound and like a train, were about to collide on the grounds shown above. As the Newfoundlanders advance on their objectives, shown as heavy dots above, they at first were advancing ahead of other friendly forces in the areas. Soon they encountered British wire obstacles that they had to crawl over. Then they found open land that was very heavily guarded by enemy MG positions and artillery. Soon, because they were so far in advance, the Newfoundlanders took the blunt of the enemy force. In fact, within very short order most were either killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
Word got back to head quarters and the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. James Forbes-Robertson. He immediately sent an officer out to see what was going on. Soon he got the devastating news that all of the unit was either dead, wounded or missing in front of their position. Forbes-Robertson grabbed all the men he had at his disposal... less then two dozen HQ staff, and ran forward grabbing what ever weapons and ammunition they could find from the wounded or dead. Racing forth his own band of brothers were themselves cut down in minutes to himself and only nine men.
For several hours the Newfoundlanders held that line until reinforcements could come up from the rear. By the following morning the Newfoundland Regiment, that started out the day before with 780 men were reduced to 110 survivors, and of those only 68 could make it to roll call the next morning. Forbes-Robertson's nine men and himself became the heroes of the British army that day. They'd be labelled the Heroes of Monchy and everyone of the surviving ten were later awarded for their bravery. Eight would be awarded the Military Medal. His Lieutenant received the Military Cross and Forbes-Robertson would get the Distinguished Service Order, just one medal below the Victoria Cross.
Forbes-Robertson during the war would be warded a second DSO (or a bar to the first to be more accurate), a Military Cross and MID's ( mentions in Dispatch). And he would also get the Victoria Cross as well. That would come from actions in April of 1918 at the Battle of Estaires near the French Belgian border.
Forbes-Robertson was a substantiated Captain, but had been acting as a major at some points of the war and a Lt. Colonel at others, and was in the later rank when he was commanding one of the Border Regiment's battalion. (He would later also command another Bn of this unit) On four different occasions in this battle he would lose horses from under him, would receive wounds yet would continue to rally his troops by foot till another horse came along and through sheer bravery and audacity would hold the lines from incredible German fire power. His April 1918 actions would be recognized by the King and he would be awarded the VC with its publishing of the London Gazette on 22 May 1918.
Later Forbes-Robinson would also hold the rank of a Brig. General whilst carrying out the duties of a staff officer. After the war he continued with the occupation army and served as commanding officer of several different regiments. In 1934 he retired after having served 30 years in the army. He then moved to the Cheltenham area of Gloucestershire England and passed away in 1955 at age 71.
This hero was born back in 1884 in Scotland and died in England on 7 July, 58 years ago Sunday past. His story is not usually included in the lists of Canadian VC's but he certainly did most honourable service with the Newfoundland Regiment, later the Royal Newfoundlanders, and yet later earned his VC and perhaps should be include because of his service.
I will again unfortunately be away from my computer on research tomorrow. I will be doing catch up columns on Sat and Sunday so please stay tuned in.