Lieutenant-General Sir Horace C. H. RobertsonAustralian Soldier
Born: October 1894 at Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
Died: April 1960
Horace Clement Hugh Robertson was born at Warrnambool, Victoria Australia on the 29 October 1894 and in due time sent by his parents to Geelong College. From there he was successful in the examination for entry into the Royal Military College, starting attendance in March 1912. He was nicknamed 'Red Robbie', in regards to his red hair, and was one of the 41 cadets in the second class since the Australian military school opened in 1911. His training and studies were of a staff cadet, above average, with a low placing on entry yet graduated eighth in a class of thirty others.
The war with Germany broke out in August 1914 and with recruiting
beginning in Australia for the First Imperial Force the two senior
classes at Duntroon were specially graduated for active service.
Robertson was commissioned in the Permanent Military Forces and then
posted to the 10th Light Horse Regiment in Western Australia, part of
the 3rd Light Horse Brigade. The horse brigade arrived in Egypt by
Christmas 1914, a strange, mystical and biblical land to the lean tall
colonial Australians & New Zealanders, and formations commenced mounted
rifle warfare training from Mena camp near the ancient Pyramids on the desert outskirts of Cairo.
At twenty years of age he commanded one of the two squadrons that
were organised after the reduction in casualties to the 10LH Rgt. His
reputation for courage of high calibre and as a leader with stamina had
become apparent commanding his unit until ordered to evacuate from
Gallipoli. Here Robertson experienced, and survived, the hard fought
lessons of the different and unpleasant conditions of trench warfare and
as a result his confidence, and of the hardships men in battle can
endure and achieve was enhanced. In particular the close fighting
ingrained the relationship between fire and movement and the necessity
of valuable careful reconnaissance no matter what the situation or
proximity of the enemy.
Across the Sinai Robertson gained the lessons in the use of ground, the value of mobility and the influence of morale coupled to other soldierly
qualities. Robertson left the regiment for further advanced staff
training bringing about his appointment as General Staff Officer Grade 3
(GSO3) at Headquarters, Yeomanry Mounted Division but a broken leg
resulting through training set back his career. After two months in
hospital then participating in the long, rapid advance along the
Palestinian Plain where his leg injury troubled him, although never
admitted this adverse uncomfort.
Major Robertson was awarded the Order of the Nile (4th Class) and on
three occasions mentioned in despatches. By mid-1919 Robertson, as
assistant Adjutant-General, he had charge of all Australian
administration and repatriation at AIF HQ, Cairo. Upon returning to
Australia and his military career he immersed himself wholeheartedly
into the Citizen Force training command. Insisting on realism with a
novelty of approach bringing interest and enthusiasm to peacetime
The newly raised Darwin Mobile force part of 7 Military District
received the permanent officer Colonel Robertson as Commandant in March
1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. In due time
with the raising of the Second AIF divisions for overseas service Brigadier Robertson became one of the three brigade commanders in the 6th AIF Division as senior officers were posted to new formations.
Back in Australia Robertson was promoted to Major-General where he
succeeded to the command of the 1st Cavalry Division in January 1942 and
eventually took command from Maj-Gen Northcott of the newly created
First Australian Armoured Division by April that year. An opportunity
for a cavalryman experienced in the warfare art of mobile operations and
with the overwhelming task of fiting the division to join Allied forces
in North Africa. He set to work with enthusiasm plus, but the Japanese
threat in the Pacific became too strong and the armoured division was
piecemeal deployed in Western Australia during 1943.
Returning to Australia and the position of GOC Southern Command, then
unexpectedly within a few weeks Robertson was offered the post -
'Commander-in-Chief of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in
Japan' after the previous commander had been appointed Governor-General
of New South Wales, Australia. He immediately lifted the morale of the
overseas troops with his temperance personality and fiery drive.
He returned to Australia and began another appointment, his last military position before retiring, that of his old job as GOC Southern Command before going to Japan, which ended in October 1954. Robertson led the first mounted cavalry charge by Australian horsemen in the First World War, yet was unable to have full operational opportunity in commanding armoured forces against the German panzers, let alone the imagined fear of invading Japanese onto the Australian shores, nor the adversity, lunge and thrust, and perhaps retreat on the ever changing battlefields. It is said that Robertson's strength of purpose and determination would have carried his character to reach new heights of brilliance in the exercise of his command in modern warfare. He died in April 1960.
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