The London Scottish Regimental Gazette, No. 918, June 1972

PERSONALITY J.O. ROBSON JACK, Robson’s “profile ”should have appeared in the Gazette long ago but Jack can ado wonderful Brer Rabbit—'‘lie low and say nuffin’ ”when he is asked for information about himself. When he reads this feature, he'll react along the lines of an unsuspecting candidate for This Is Your Life and will be shaken to his erudite eyebrows. Yet he cannot be allowed to retire quietly from the role of Regimental Curator without a tribute to his selflessness and service to the Scottish. Jack joined the London Scottish on November 1,1912, with two other stalwarts, G. N. Smith and (now) Lt-Colonel Renwick. He took part with G. N. Smith in the team for the Bayonet“ M onro” Shield Competition, when the Scottish, having fought every team in the Bde, was beaten in the final by the Artists’ Rifles. On April 16,1914. No 1699 Robson. J.O., was promoted to the dizzy heights of L/Cpl and as such took part in the historic Battle of Messines on October 31,1914 and was wounded. Actually, Jack sulTered a severe concussion, he presumes from a shell. He stayed in the line for another week but has no recollection of that period. He says his contemporaries told him afterwards he was lucky not to recall anything and it was a “bloody awful week!”. In 1915 he took a commission in the 9th Gordons and went out to France with them but was invalided home again as unfit, still feeling the effects of that shell-burst. Later he went to Ireland with 3rd Bn Gordons but got fed up and found himself at Blairgowrie base with 6th Gordons. Here he met Frank Moffat, one-time Adjutant of the Scottish and Monty Sherman. They had the task of forming a Labour Corps from among men who were down-graded medically but required officers who were JackAl. decided togo outwith the Labour Corps to France and soon regretted it. The men. besides being unfit for front line duties, were also un­trained in the most elementary precautions and tactics and were casualty-prone in large numbers. Jack had recurring back trouble, aftermath of being blown up, and was sent to hospital again. Here one night, pouring with rain, he looked out and saw mud everywhere. He decided he had had enough mud and then and there putin for transfer to the Flying Corps, which was seeking volunteers from Army Officers. He was interviewed at Amiens (he thinks —“something with an A ”).He mentioned his London Scottish background and the interviewing officer sat up. asked Jack if he were at Messines and then refought the battle with the aid of paper­weights and ink bottles on his desk. He had been with the 4th Dragoons at Messines. After a considerable time spent in reminiscing, the officer said he had to see ten other officers but select only four for the Balloon Section of the RFC. Would Jack be interested? Jack sought the interviewer’s advice and was told that if it were the latter’s choice, he'd opt for balloons as planes were unsafe. So Jack became a ballooner. For those who may not know, in WWI, observation balloons went up with two officers in the basket to some 1,500 feet with object of spotting enemy batteries. The balloon was on a cable to a winch with a telephone cable running down to a hut where information was in turn phoned to British batteries. With you in the basket you had a panoramic map of the terrain below upon which was marked known locations of enemy guns. You virtually had to memorise the positions so that prompt counter battery fire went over. Dangling beneath the billowing hulk of the balloon, which could be seen for miles by the enemy, you were a natural target. Jack never had to bale out but admits he had some unhappy moments when the enemy batteries had a potshot with air-bursts oran enemy plane decided to attack. There were two parachutes in canvas cones on the sides of the basket. The parachutes were not the sophisticated jobs of today. From the cone dangled apiece of rope to which you tied your harness, having made this yourself! Thus, if you had baled out and something went wrong, it was your fault and not that of the RFC (Pontius Pilates of the parachutes). The drill was that the junior officer jumped first, with the senior last to abandon the basket. On one occasion he was with a junior who was definitely “windy” and wouldn’t overlook the side of the balloon. Jack told him that if he didn't pull himself together and they had to jump, he'd hit him on the head with his pistol, and throw him out. Thereafter, the junior officer took an interest in the view. Page 100
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