Alfred James Robertson

A recent sort out of old papers and photographs in the depths of my larder revealed many items of interest but this one has a particular relevance on this remembrance day to honour those who lost gtheir lives in the great war.

It is the discharge certificate for Alfred James Robertson, Granny Robertson’s husband and my maternal grandfather, who was disabled in the conflict and honourably discharged in September 1918.

As a document that must have been reproduced many hundreds of thousands of times it is quite a complex design, especially at a time well before DTP, and on such an incredibly large scale.

I also thought it might be of interest to display it here, along with a fairly contemporary photo of Alfred James (I would hazard a guess at the mid-twenties) as my sort of tribute to those who gave their lives.

Gassed in the later years of the war he never recovered full fitness and had to retire early from his job as a tax accountant.

He never talked of the actual extent of his injuries nor gave details of his experiences, not even within the family and if he ever told his wife, (Granny Robertson, below left) though even if he did she never repeated them.

But such attitudes were not so uncommon at the time, that the stoic British ‘stiff upper lip’ would not permit for any such open display of less than manly bravado.

As the brigade doctor during the early days of the Battle of Ypres, Lieutenant John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for a young Canadian officer Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who had been killed on 2nd May, 1915, because the chaplain had been called away somewhere else on duty that evening.

It is believed that later that evening, McRae began to draft his now famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.


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