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Remembering Private James Robertson

By Donald Turvill
Lockerbie and Lochmaben
Remembering Private James Robertson

THE death has been announced of Private James Robertson from Lockerbie, who served with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) during World War II.

He passed away last Monday, March 1 at the age of 98.

James was born in Belzies, Lochmaben on March 24, 1922 and was one of the regiment’s last surviving veterans.

His family have paid tribute to a “hero” who they say “lived a long and full life”.

One of five children, he attended Shieldhill Schoolhouse in Lochmaben before moving onto Lochmaben Primary, which he left aged 14.

Following this, James took up his first job as a children’s butler at a house near Duncow owned by the Crabbie family. After not enjoying this role much, he accepted a stonemason apprenticeship with Andrew Graham builders in Lochmaben, where he worked until the war.

Initially training with the Mountain Division in Grampian, then moving to the 1st Airborne and the 52nd Lowland Division, James was eventually called up to enlist in the KOSB’s 4th Battalion in January 1942.

In October 1944, he was deployed to the frontline, landing in Ostend and working his way up through Belgium and the Netherlands, where in November he was wounded during the assault on Walcheren.

By 1945, James was in Germany stationed near the town of Osterholtz-Scharnbeck, which was mostly populated by East German refugees, and on May 8 that year upon returning to camp at 6 am following night patrols, his superior delivered some long-awaited good news.

“The company commander, Major Hogg, informed me that the war was over,” James told the Annandale Herald last year. He said he was “so exhausted” that he decided to go to bed, adding: “It wasn’t until the next day that any kind of celebration took place.”

The private recalled the jubilant scenes in the days that followed, reminiscing that his comrade, Private Finch, played songs on a piano that was brought out into the street from a local hotel. The ten KOSB soldiers stationed in Osterholtz-Scharnbeck sung in celebration, being occasionally approached by surrendering German troops waving white flags.

James remained in Germany until July 1946 where he was involved in maintaining military control. He also helped to liberate 20,000 people from the the Stalag X1B and Fallingbostel prison camps, including two of his fellow soldiers who had been captured in April 1945.

At the end of his military service, he returned to his home near Lochmaben and resumed work as a stonemason for Andrew Graham, with whom he helped to restore Castlemilk mansion and Lockerbie Manor Hotel.

Around this time he met his wife, Grace, who was a friend of his sister, Betty, and worked for the Navy, Army and Air Forces Institute.

The couple tied the knot in 1948 and went on to have three children — Neil and Gillian, as well as Hazel, who sadly passed away in 2006.

Altogether, they welcomed seven grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren into the family before Grace died in 2014.

Pupils of St Mungo Primary in Kettleholm may remember the veteran from his time working as the school’s janitor throughout his seventies.

James was also a lifelong supporter of Queen of the South and an accomplished bowler and bowls umpire, winning trophies well into his nineties with Kettleholm’s St Mungo Bowling Club, which he was a member of until last summer.

His funeral took place on Tuesday at Dryfesdale Cemetery in Lockerbie.

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