Grangemouth soldier went on strike to get home from WW1

Thomas Robertson, left, on duty during World War One

Thomas Robertson, left, on duty during World War One

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You don’t normally hear about soldiers going on strike, but some brave men had to take that stance to get home at the end of the First World War.

On November 11, 1918, wireless news of the Armistice signed by Germany to mark the end of the Great War reaches Ferrier Staff Sergeant Thomas Robertson, from Grangemouth, in Palestine where he was fighting the Turks.

His great grandson Neil White has turned Thomas’s war diary into a web page telling the fascinating story of his service throughout the conflict.

Thomas was a blacksmith with a smiddy in Grangemouth Docks and left the town at the age of 33 to join The Scottish Horse Regiment. He landed at Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli peninsula of Turkey on September 1, 1915.

His diary read: “Sep 1. Disembarked on Lala Baba, Suvla at day break, heavily shelled by Turks. Corporal Farrier Eccles killed, Mr Parker Smith killed. Total landing casualties: 97 killed and wounded.”

In October winter storms caused much hardship for the soldiers with 145,000 sick due to dysentery, diarrhoea, and enteric fever.

On June 24, 1917, he boarded SS Cestrain which was torpedoed and sank. One of the survivors, he was transferred to the 20th Machine Gun Squadron in Palestine where he would remain the rest of the war, fighting in brutal battles.

His diary continued: “Oct 31. Captured Beersheba. Town in flames, 38 hours without water for horses. Fight for city lasted 32 hours. Entered city at 2 a.m., watered. Bombed by Turkish aircraft, no damage. Water scarce as Turks destroyed pumps.

“Brilliant attack by 12th Australian Light Horse with fixed bayonets mounted. Turkish battery stand to attention when captured.”

Following the Armistice, rioting in Aleppo and unrest in Egypt prevented Thomas and his colleagues from returning home until the soldiers in the demob camp went on strike.

Had he not done that he may never have returned to marry wife Kate and start a family.

NEVER STRAYED FAR FROM HOME AGAIN

Surviving the horrors of WW1, Thomas set sail for Grangemouth on May 7, 1919 from a camp in Kantara and reached home 11 days later. He married wife Kate and they had two daughters, Mary and Kathleen.

He never strayed far from home again. He lived a long and happy life and passed away in the Grangemouth home where he’d raised his family in 1971.

The soldiers in Palestine were ordered to remain there after the Armistice as the British Government was under pressure to protect business interests following rioting in Aleppo and Egyptian unrest.

On September 28, 1918, Thomas filled a flask with water from the River Jordan which he brought home and used to christen his children and other members of his family.

Thomas Robertson’s full diary with pictures can be viewed at

https://neilwhite.atavist.com/thomasrobertsonswar.