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JS Robertson

1059726 AC1 JS Robertson RAFVR 1921—1991

John Stuart Robertson joined the RAF in 1940 at the age of 19. Having trained as a fitter, by the end of July 1941 he was aboard ship bound for the Middle East theatre, there to join 211 Squadron operating as a nucleus for the formation of 72 OTU at Wadi Gazouza in The Sudan.

At the end of 1941, the Squadron was extricated from 72 OTU to be part of what then seemed a substantial RAF reinforcement of the Far East, with four Blenheim Squadrons from the Middle East (Nos 45, 84, 113 and 211). As groundcrew, Stuart was one of the large 211 Squadron Sea Party aboard HMT Yoma.

The difficulties on Sumatra and Java are summarised on the Far East page and covered in more detail by narratives for CO Bob Bateson DFC and other participants. Stuart made it to Tjilatjap, but not to the Tung Song.

Taken captive on Java, he was later taken by sea (a hazardous journey which not all PoWs survived) to Mitsushima PoW Camp in Japan. There he stayed until liberation. Among his camp mates were Commander Gordon of the HMS Exeter (lost with so many others in the Battle of the Java Sea, 27 February 1942) and a future Lord of the Admiralty, Twiss.

In civilian life, Stuart Robertson was—like fellow Scot Bill Baird, my father Cyril (Nobby) Clark, and other 211s—a printer. He died, aged 70, in 1991.

His son Alan has recorded Stuart’s service history on his Robbo Clan webpage. In early 2001, Alan scanned the family collection of his father’s photographs and very kindly offered to share them here too. This is a selection.

    JS Robertson 1940
    Age 19 (1940) Blackpool (Robertson family collection)

    JS Robertson 1942
    Age 21 (1942) Mitsushima Camp Japan (Robertson family collection)

    JS Robertson group
    AC1 Stuart Robertson (Robertson family collection)
    Stuart is 2nd from left, standing, in this photograph and standing far left back row in the photo below. The name of the house is Rome or Roma. Alan has noticed that some of the personnel positively identified in his Aunt’s copy of the photo below also seem to feature in the one above, tentatively as follows:
    Back Row L to R: G Beal, JS Robertson, ?, J Heald, M Fawkes, ?, ?, ?
    Front Row: L Quinn, J Peet, H Caswell, George Humphries.

    JS Robertson Group 2
    AC1 Stuart Robertson (Robertson family collection)
    Stuart’s sister has unearthed her own copy of this lower group photograph, to find that her copy has the individual names written on the reverse. These are (from L to R):
    Back Row: JS Robertson, JB Reybouln (spelling not clear), M Fawkes, J Heald, R Laidler,
    T Ellwood, G Humphries, G Beal
    Front Row: G Walsh, H Caswell, J Peet (spelling not clear), L Quinn, H Hardwicke.

    George Humphries joined 211 Squadron with Stuart and was taken PoW with him in
    Java but subsequently died in captivity at Sandakan in Borneo, as recorded in the Far East PoW Losses roll. George and Stuart were good friends: it’s possible that they wangled a posting together.

Compiler’s note
These two group photos are most likely to be of Stuart and the other participants of his Rigger's course, passed out 24th September 1940 Blackpool according to Alan's page. Stuart’s sister, too, is confident that the photographs were taken at their billet in Blackpool.

Many a groundcrew course was undertaken in Blackpool. This may be Mrs Holingsworth’s house, 2 Hornby Road, Blackpool, one of many such where a groundcrew course might find themselves billetted.

72 OTU Roll TNA AIR 29/686
Robertson family correspondence and photos
JS Robertson page Robbo Clan website

L & P Stubbs Unsung heroes of the Royal Air Force: The Far East Prisoners of War (Barny Books 2002)


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Site created 15 Apr 2001, last updated 31 Mar 2024. Page created 15 April 2001, last updated 31 Jul 2020
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