STELLARTON – One of the new Canadian Coast Guard vessels will be named in remembrance of a Stellarton soldier.
Central Nova MP Peter MacKay announced Wednesday that one of the two new ships will be named after Victoria Cross recipient Private James Peter Robertson.
Robertson was born on Oct. 26, 1883, in Albion Mines, which later become part of Stellarton.
Like many young men, Robertson volunteered to fight in the First World War, leaving a good job with the railway in Medicine Hat, Alta., where he’d moved with his family to join the 27th Battalion in 1915.
On Nov. 6, 1917, at just 34 years old, he was fighting in the Battle of Passchendaele when he put aside his fears and rushed across enemy lines.
As bullets whizzed around him, he kept on, intent to save the lives of two injured comrades. Miraculously, he got one to safety, but as he returned to save the second man, he was killed.
That was his second act of bravery that day; earlier, he had dashed through an opening on the flank in battle and rushed a machine gun, struggling with the crew and killing four of them. The remainder fled to their own lines, allowing Robertson’s platoon to advance.
For those acts, Robertson was awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery. The highest military award that can be given, it takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals that can be given.
Closer to home, Robertson’s memory was honoured last summer with the dedication of the Private James P. Robertson Memorial Park, situated beside the cenotaph in Stellarton.
Clem Balesdent, a member of the Stellarton Legion who was instrumental in seeing the Robertson Park constructed, was overjoyed to hear his name would be carried on one of the new Coast Guard ships.
“I think it’s wonderful – it’s about time he was recognized a little bit more, this is just super,” Balesdent said.
Many people don’t realize just who Robertson was, he added.
“He was a private, and I think some people tend to think only commissioned people earned Victoria Crosses,” he said. “I want people to realize that once the boys got in that uniform, they became brothers. And that brotherhood is stronger, I think, than even blood brothers – you look out for each other and you know that if you’re in trouble, your brothers are going to come and help you. And that’s what he did. He gave up his life not only for his country but also for his buddies.”
The other new vessel will be named after First World War soldier Cpl. Joseph Kaeble, V.C., from St. Moise, Que.
"Our government is proud to dedicate these new Coast Guard vessels in remembrance of two valiant soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country," said MacKay. "With this tribute, we are helping to keep alive the memory of these brave Canadians and their comrades for years to come."
The CCGS Private Robertson V.C. and the CCGS Corporal Kaeble V.C. are currently under construction in Halifax and are expected to enter service in the spring of 2012.