b. 30/04/1891 Willesden, Middlesex. d. 04/08/1975 Auckland, New Zealand.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 28/02/1918 Hornsea, Lincolnshire.
Paul Douglas Robertson (1892-1975) was born in Willesden, Middlesex, on 30th April 1891. He was the second son of Captain William Foy Robertson, a Master Mariner of Scottish descent, and his wife Helen. His older brother was called Alick, and he also had a younger sister named after his mother, who was born in Jamaica. Due to his father’s career, the family travelled around the world, meaning Paul’s education was in Jamaica, London and Australia.
Paul Robertson joined the Royal Navy at the age of 19 and on 9th February 1916, as a Flight Lieutenant was awarded his aviator’s certificate. By early 1918, he was an Acting Flight Commander, Royal Naval Air Service, in command of Hornsea Mere Sub-Station. It was in this appointment that he was awarded the Albert Medal.
On 28th February 1918, a seaplane got out of control and spun to the ground. Robertson, the observer, jumped from the machine just before he hit the ground and landed safely, as the ground was marshy. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant HC Lemon, was imprisoned in the seaplane, which, on striking the ground, immediately burst into flames, and notwithstanding that the vicinity of the seaplane was quickly a furnace of burning petrol, and that heavy bombs, a number of rounds of ammunition, and the reserve petrol tank were all likely to explode, Robertson returned and endeavoured to extricate the pilot, and only desisted when he had been so severely burned in the face, hands and leg that his recovery was for some time in doubt.
Robertson’s injuries were severe enough that he lost an eye in the incident. He was invested with his Albert Medal at Buckingham Palace by King George V on 31st October 1918. He had married three years earlier (on 23rd February 1915) to Edna Lilian Maxwell Dalton, the daughter of the Governor of Suva Gaol, Fiji. They married in Cransley Parish Church, Northamptonshire. They had three children, two daughters and a son, the latter was unfortunately killed while still at school, aged 9, in 1934. Robertson’s first wife died after a fall in 1963 and he married again in 1966.
He spent his entire career in the Royal Air Force, specialising in navigation training, until his retirement in December 1945. He commanded the School of Air Navigation in Canada, later in Squire’s Gate, near Blackpool, Lancashire and was appointed CBE on 1st January 1944. He received his CBE from King George VI at Buckingham Palace in March 1944.
He retired with the rank of Group Captain and in 1967 he emigrated with his second wife to New Zealand. He was an accomplished artist and continued to fly regularly. Following the change in the Royal Warrant in 1971, he chose to exchange his Albert Medal for the George Cross. He exchanged his medals by post in 1972, since he was not well enough to travel to London for the investiture. He had emigrated to New Zealand in later life, and he died there aged 84, on 4th August 1975. He was cremated and his ashes were interred in Purewa Cemetery, New Zealand.
Paul’s medal group including his GC, CBE, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Mercantile Marine War Medal, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf and the King George VI Coronation Medal 1937 are privately held following being sold at auction at Glendinning’s on 10th November 1999.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: PUREWA CEMETERY, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND.
Block X Row 20 Plot 40
Robertson was cremated and his ashes were buried in Block X, Row 20 Plot 40
Picture courtesy of John Snashall