University of Oxford
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Major Hugh Robertson

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:59 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

These are photos of my father Major Hugh Robertson, from Nigg in Scotland, a former pupil of Tain Academy.

He was with the 5th Battalion of the 51st Highland Division. (The 5th battalion was charged with replacing the original 5th known as "Scotland's Pride" when that was sacrificed at St. Valery-en-Caux, at the time of Dunkirk. The first time they had been defeated. Many a friend who fought with my father, could be heard to sigh: "Oh... St. Valery… St. Valery...". "The Beaches of St. VALERY" is a song explaining what the Seaforths went through in their final hours of fighting. It talks of the despair they felt, completely deserted by high command, and given an impossible job.

As Lieutenant, Hugh Robertson received the MC [Military Cross] for gallantry in 1942. The newspaper clipping was kept by Hugh's mother, my grandmother. I remember that she kept it as Hugh hadn’t believed he had been awarded the MC and thought his mother had become confused while he was overseas. The date of print and original publication is unknown.

Hugh drew up a map of the formation during the Battle of El Alamein, to explain what the situation was, when he was speaking on his experiences: ‘"Supercharge" objectives and achievements of operations under Command 2 New Zealand Division 2-3 November 1942.’
My father talked about the "invisible boxes" [defensive works] that had to be created. And the worry of creating a strat line for the battle.

As well as a portrait photo of Hugh, there is a photograph of him putting the shot and another of him tossing the caber during September 1945. When I commented that it seemed a rather large caber, he replied: "Oh, we ran out of cabers. That's a telegraph pole!" I recall Dad telling me that this photo was taken because they were using telegraph poles larger than standard-length cabers. Hugh was quite systematic in how he labelled his photos, so I believe that these sports photos were taken at an army training camp. However, it has been suggested the photos are from sports at Cuxhaven, Germany. Hugh was in Cuxhaven briefly after the war before he became part of the Hanover Peace Keeping Force.

Hugh Robertson was also involved in an Army training video "A Battalion in Battle", in 1995. It was the Battle of Groin, which should have been a set-piece battle. Dad maintained, having fought at El Alamein, that Groin was the toughest and hardest battle he ever fought. The graphics and collection of stories were very well done by the army: showing how a set piece can disintegrate once something goes wrong and starts a domino effect. Hugh features several times within Alastair Borthwick's account of the 5th Seaforth Highlanders’ "Attack on Groin" during the Rhine crossing late in March 1945 in his role as O.C. "C" Company [officer commanding]. Further information is available on the website of the 51st Highland Division and in "Battalion" by Alastair Borthwick. Alastair Borthwick first published this in 1946 under the title, Sans Peur (the Battalion's motto), and re-published by Bâton Wicks - London (ISBN 1-898575-00-X).

Towards the end of his life, Major Hugh Robertson gave several interviews for filmed documentaries including "A Battalion in Battle" and a number of commentaries for "Scotland's War".


Item list and details

Photo of Major Hugh Robertson; Photos of caber tossing and shotput 1945; News clipping of MC Hugh Robertson 1942;

Person the story/items relate to

Hugh Robertson

Person who shared the story/items

Linda McLean

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

My father

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID