The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

May 27, 2009

Wed. May 27, 2009 – Robertson Brothers

Two sons of Alexander and Janet Robertson, Danny and Peter, who were born in Albion Mines but moved to Springhill at an early age, were to become future heroes.

Danny Robertson, who at the age of 14, was working in the Springhill Mines at the time of the Explosion of 1891. When the explosion occurred Danny was sitting at the front of his box driving a rake of empty boxes. The force of the blast instantly killed his horse and knocked him back into the box. He immediately took off his burning coat and vest and tried to find his way out of the mines. He heard the crying of another boy and turned toward the sound. At the trap door he found Judson Terris, a smaller boy who was too frightened to move. Although Dannie’s hands were severely burned and the pain was great he could not touch Judson with his hands but managed to get him on his back and carry him out of the mines. Once he got to the surface and the men took care of Judson, Dannie tried to re-enter the mines to look for his younger brother but the men would not let him go back down. When he came out of the mines he found that his brother Peter was already out. Danny was taken home on a sled but when they reached the gate he insisted on walking into the house so as not to frighten his mother.

Danny Robertson later received a Gold Cross for saving the life of Judson Terris on Feb. 21, 1891.

The family moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1899. Danny became an engineer on the Canadian Pacific Railway. He died of a heart attack in 1923.

James Peter Robertson also worked for the C.P.R. and after a time he became an engineer. Peter became known as “Singing Pete” because you could hear him singing, any time day or night, whether in the cab or the roadhouse.

In 1915 he enlisted in the 13 th Canadian Mounted Rifles. He served in France with the 27 th Battalion Canadian Infantry. When his platoon was held up by uncut wire and

Machine, causing many casualties Peter dashed to an opening in the flank, rushed the gun, and after a desperate struggle with the enemy, was able to kill four and then turn the gun on those remaining, who, overcome with the forcefulness of his onslaught, began running toward their own lines. He continued to inflict casualties upon the enemy and with the captured machine gun; he led his platoon to the final position. Setting up the machine gun he began firing at the retreating enemy.

Private Peter Robertson’s determined use of the machine gun kept the firing of the enemy’s snipers at a minimum.

Later when two of our snipers were badly wounded, in front of our trench, he went out and carried one of them in while he was being fired upon. Peter was killed as he returned with the second man. He was instantly killed by the German shell at Passchendaele on November 6, 1917. He is buried in the Tyne Lot Cemetery at Passchendaele, Belgium.

The Victoria Cross was presented to Peter’s mother in Medicine Hat by Lieutenant Governor Brett of Alberta in April 1918. The citation read” For most conspicuous bravery and outstanding devotion to duty in attack”.

When he presented the Victoria Cross to Peter’s mother the Lieut. Governor said: “This cross is only a small thing but it is engraved with the words: ’For Valour,’ which means a great deal. Money can do much – with money titles can be bought, but money cannot buy the Victoria Cross. It must be won by valour and service.”

In Medicine Hat there are memorials to Peter Robertson for his actions during the war. There is the Robertson Memorial Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, the Robertson Swimming Pool and the Robertson Way named in his honour.

Two brothers, who in different situations performed very heroic deeds, will remain in our hearts and minds as true heroes.