Able Seaman James Robertson was carried to his last resting place at CWGC Orchard Dump Cemetery by a Royal Navy bearer party (Photo © Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

WW1 British sailor laid to rest on Arras battlefield

Posted on on 11 July 2018
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A sailor of the Royal Navy has been buried with full military honours in France, more than 100 years after he was killed at the Battle of Arras.

The tribute to Able Seaman James Robertson at CWGC’s Orchard Dump Cemetery is a reminder of the part played by British sailors in the land campaigns of the First World War.

With more naval reservists and volunteers than required at sea, thousands of men like James Robertson fought as infantry with the Royal Naval Division, in units named after historic naval commanders.

Able Seaman Robertson was serving with the Anson Battalion when he was killed in an attack on the village of Gavrelle, near Arras, on 28 April 1917 - a week after his 27th birthday.


His last resting place remained unknown until 2016, when his remains were discovered during construction work on the  outskirts of Gavrelle. Anson Battalion shoulder titles were still attached to his uniform, while those for the Royal Naval Division and Hood Battalion were found in a pocket.

Further research by the British defence ministry’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) confirmed James Robertson’s identity.

DNA tests matched his 81-year-old nephew, Frank Treasurer, who was among family members  attending the burial service at Orchard Dump Cemetery on July 11. 

"Today was a sad and poignant day, however it was also a celebration of James and his comrades’ courage and bravery," Mr Treasurer said. "We were very glad to be here today to witness him finally being laid to rest."

The Royal Navy fired a gun salute in honour of Able Seaman Robertson (Photo © CWGC)

James Cameron Robertson, who was from Aberdeen, joined the Royal Navy in October 1914. He served in Gallipoli and Northern France with the Hood Battalion. In January 1917, he was transferred to the Anson Battalion after recovering from wounds.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has marked his grave with a headstone bearing his military and personal details, together with a personal inscription chosen by his family.

Steve Arnold, of CWGC, said: "I was honoured to be able to recover Able Seaman Robertson from the battlefield where he lay for 100 years and privileged to be here today to see him laid to rest alongside his comrades. We will care for his grave here at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Orchard Dump Cemetery forever."

Read more about the Battle of Arras & Vimy Ridge here in Centenary News.

The Battle of Arras had the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting in a single First World War battle. Of 159,000 Allied casualties, about a third were Scots.  See our report from Arras 2017 - Scotland remembers.

Sources: UK Ministry of Defence & the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Images courtesy of CWGC

Posted by: CN Editorial Team