University of Oxford
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Table runner made by Major Hugh Robertson in Alexandria, and a German naval sword

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

My father Major Hugh Robertson really cared about his men. He also had faith, but was not fanatical.

However, a chaplain had been assigned to his battalion who was of a very strong faith. So strong, it upset the army, and there were considerable run ins and disagreements. Eventually they had to agree that they had different Commanders. The Padre. IRONSIDE, only recognised instructions from God. So, when he was told to wear a helmet, he had to say, my Commander says "No." When he was told to take cover in a trench during the bombardment at El Alamein, his Commander said it was unnecessary. So, Ironside solemnly erected his camp bed beside the trench, and shouted "Goodnight, lads" to the soldiers cowering in fear in the trench.

They thought he was completely barking mad. But, as the war wore on, and more were killed and wounded, and Ironside, the Padre, had not a scrape, despite ignoring army regulations, the men regarded him with some awe. He obviously had a hotline to God. Through North Africa and the Sicily Landings, he was fine. From the Normandy beaches into France problem.

And then he stood on a schu mine.

This resulted in his glasses being blown off his face. As the mine did not properly explode!

My father admits that the nearest Ironside came to death, was when my Dad mistook his shiny bald pate for a metal German helmet, glinting in the sun. And he was about to put a bullet through it. But, it was only Ironside coming to give the lads some cigarettes!

My Dad said that although fear is very contagious, this kind of courage was very catching. It was a tremendous morale booster ...that somebody was not scared ...AT ALL OF ANYTHING ...of the army, of the enemy, of rules and regulations.

He merely said he had a different Commander. According to my Dad, this man broke every rule in the book, and survived all his experiences. And had an inspirational effect on the men ...just by living what he believed.

Among other belongings from his time in the War I have a most unusual table runner, which my father handmade for his mother while he was recuperating in Alexandria: "Souvenir of Egypt. 1943. To Mother with love from Hugh". And a German (?) naval sword. White Ivory handle, gold braid, and decorated blade.


Item list and details

Handmade table runner German(?) naval sword. White Ivory handle, gold braid, and decorated blade.

Person the story/items relate to

Major Hugh Robertson

Person who shared the story/items

Linda McLean

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

He was my father.

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID