Archibald William Robertson-Glasgow
2nd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles
Capt. A.W. Robertson-Glasgow – Garhwal Rifles
Archibald William Robertson-Glasgow, born 24 May 1880, was a son of Mr Robert Bruce Robertson-Glasgow of Montgreenan, Ayrshire and Deborah Louis Grace Purdon whose family came from Co. Clare. He was educated at Wellington House School, Westgate-on-Sea, Marlborough College and Sandhurst, becoming a career soldier in the Indian army. He assumed his first command in 1899, served in the Somaliland campaign against the Ogaden Somalis in Jubaland in 1901, and was promoted to Captain in 1908.
He was connected with the Frasers of Tornaveen as cousin and brother-in-law of Lieut. L.H.V. Fraser, having married Fraser’s sister Violet (her full name was Philadelphia Constance Violet Flora Macdonald Fraser), eldest daughter of Major Fraser of Tornaveen on 19 January 1911 at St Peter, Cranley Gardens, Kensington.
At the time war was declared, Robertson-Glasgow was a Captain in the 2nd Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles. He left India for France with his regiment as part of the 7th Meerut Division on 21 September 1914. On arrival in France he served initially as Railway Transport Officer before rejoining his regiment in the trenches in November.
By 13 November 2014, the 39th were on their sixteenth day in the trenches near Bethune, conducting periodical assaults on enemy lines. The battalion War Diary gives a detailed account of the circumstances of Robertson-Glasgow’s death. Four days earlier an evening raid on the enemy’s near trench resulted in the capture of some prisoners but it was necessary to withdraw in the face of heavy fire. In the ensuing few days of mutual sniping and shelling, plans were laid for a renewed attack, and at 9pm on 13 November 300 men, including 250 of the 2/3 Garhwal Rifles, and 50 of the 39th led by Major Taylor, made a second attempt. They were met by heavy firing and while a few reached the objective, there were heavy casualties. Several wounded men returned to the trenches but were unable to give an account of what was happening in front. There was no news as to what had become of Major Taylor and his men. The raid provoked fierce musketry fire from the German rear trenches. It was decided to send out a further 22 men with Capt. Robertson-Glasgow to try and reach the trench and at the same time ascertain what had happened to the Major and his party. The advance was particularly difficult as it was made under the ranging glare of enemy searchlights and a hail of artillery fire. Scouts were later sent out to try and find out what had happened to Major Taylor and Capt. Robertson-Glasgow but they were unable to get very far. Following further attempts to advance in these difficult conditions, the assault was given up, and it was decided to leave the wounded till the morning in the hope that they could be recovered under the protection of the Red Cross.
Robertson-Glasgow lost his life in this raid, though his body was not recovered the following day, perhaps because he was too close to the enemy lines. According to his Colonel: “ He had charged right up most valiantly to the enemy’s trench and in a yard or two more would have been in it…”.
A fellow officer also recorded of him: “ I spent a good time on the afternoon of that disastrous night attack with him. He was as cheery as ever, and told me all about the exciting time he had digging out some men who had been buried by the exploding of a heavy German shell. The trench was knocked in and cover practically nil, so the operation had to be carried out in full view of the Germans, who put a lot of shrapnel over him and his men”.
On Christmas Day 1914, the War Diary contained a surprising entry:
“About 3 o’clock the Germans, who since the morning had been shouting and singing in their trenches, made signs to our trenches that they wished to communicate with us, and eventually they began to climb out of their trenches. We did the same, as did also the regiments on our right and left. Both sides fraternised for about an hour, several Germans coming over to our trench and talking and conversing by signs with officers and men. They gave our men tobacco, cigarettes and newspapers, and for about an hour both sides walked about freely outside their trenches and in the open space between the lines.
Opportunity was taken to search for the bodies of the officers and men who were missing after the night attack on the enemy’s trenches on the night of the 13th November. Captain Burton found Captain Robertson-Glasgow’s body lying on the parapet of the enemy’s trench…
About 3.45pm both sides retired again to their trenches, but little or no firing took place for the rest of the day….
Orders received during the evening that such mutual armistices were not to take place in future”.
Robertson-Glasgow was 34. He left not only a widow, but also a baby son, Archibald Francis Colin, born 31 July 1914. He is buried at Le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L’Avoue.