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Robert Jobson 1893

Robert Jobson – born 1893

My Granny’s brother, Robert Jobson was born 22 December 1893 in Edinburgh. His parents were living at 2 Bothwell Street at the time. However, by the time he was only twelve years old, he had lost both parents, his father dying in 1898 and his mother in 1904. After his father died, Robert’s mother Mary moved to Falkland with himself and his sister Annie. They stayed in Crosswynd, Falkland where his mother kept boarders.

CrossWynd Falkland, Fife, Scotland. These houses have now been demolished.

In 1904 his mother gave birth to a daughter Margaret Armour, shown as illegitimate on her birth certificate, unfortunately Mary dies about three months later, leaving Robert, Annie and also the new born baby Margaret. There is more on Margaret Armour in a later chapter.

Their Granny, Anne Armour (nee McLaren), then brought up Robert and his sister Annie. They initially stayed at Falkland Hill cottage just above Falkland in Fife, but eventually they and their Granny  moved to stay at Ballingry road, Lochore Fife. 

In the 1911 Census Robert is a lodger staying at Finderlie Bothy, in the parish of Orwell, Kinross. He is a ploughman staying at the bothy with, George Gilmour 21, Farm foreman and Robert Pollock 17, Cattleman on the farm.

My Father, Robert Jobson Paton, reckons that his mother’s brother, Robert Jobson had immigrated to Canada and had been involved in to the Great War with the Canadian troops but never returned.

Indeed Robert immigrated to Canada around the same time as his Uncle Bob, Robert Armour. He sailed from Glasgow in 1914 on board the “Letitia” arriving in Quebec on the 5th of July 1914. The “Letitia” could carry around 300 2nd and 1000 third class passengers, built by Scott’s shipbuilding & Engineering Company, Greenock in 1912. The Letitia went on to become a hospital ship during the Great War but did not fair to well, when she ran aground in thick fog in 1917 near Halifax Nova Scotia.

Robert was planning to be a farm labourer in Canada, which he had been doing for six years prior to his immigration. He must have only been fourteen when he started farm work in Scotland. On arrival in Quebec, his plans were for onward travel via the Canadian Pacific Railway to Trenton in Ontario.

On the 28th July, that year saw the start of the First World War in Europe. When Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, Canada and the other members of the British Empire were automatically involved; they had not been consulted beforehand. On August 5, 1914, the Governor General declared a war between Canada and Germany. Canadians of British descent—the majority—gave widespread support arguing that Canadians had a duty to fight on behalf of their Motherland. Indeed, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, although French-Canadian, spoke for the majority of English-Canadians when he proclaimed: "It is our duty to let Great Britain know and to let the friends and foes of Great Britain know that there is in Canada but one mind and one heart and that all Canadians are behind the Mother Country."  Prime Minister Robert Borden gave an offer of assistance to Great Britain, which was quickly accepted.

Indeed, Canadian "Attestation Papers" Signed by Robert Jobson on 6th November 1914 at Kingston in Canada, show him signing up for the War in Europe. Anne Armour, his Grandmother living in Lochore Scotland, was given as his next of kin. Robert was shown as a labourer and not married, aged 20 years and 11 months. However, his birthday was given as 22nd of December 1894, which would make him only 19 years old. It appears his birth went unregistered until January 1894 and this is where the confusion appears to have arisen, as he is actually born in December 1893.

Robert was only about five foot three and three quarter inches tall, with brown hair, a fair complexion and blue eyes, and being considered fit for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, was duly signed up at Kingston, Canada. I wonder if he had any idea of what was to come.

The 21st Battalion CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force) was organized in Kingston Ontario during World War 1 (WW1), under Lt Col W.S. Hughes, of men and officers of Eastern Ontario. It was also known as the Eastern Ontario Regiment. 5326 men and officers passed through its ranks during the war. Only 106 of the original soldiers entered Germany at the end of the war. Some 3328 were killed, wounded or went missing in action. Eleven battle honours grace its colours. Over 300 medals and citations were earned. It disbanded after the job was done, but is perpetuated by The Princess of Wales Own Regiment in Kingston Ontario.

The Nominal Rolls of the Canadian Expeditionary Force are the lists of soldiers on strength with the unit on a particular date. They were generally created in the course of a unit's formation in Canada, often in preparation for departure overseas. The first page contained a list of officers, arranged in order of rank. Other ranks followed on succeeding pages, arranged in alphabetical order, showing full name, rank, and regimental number. The initial Nominal Roll of the 21st Infantry Battalion in May 1915 included Robert on page 13 as “59509 Private Jobson, Robert” His next of kin shown as “Armour, Ann” from “Ballingry, Fife Scotland”. It also shows him as having signed up in Kingston on November 6th 1914. The document shows that the Force Embarked from the port of Montreal on May 6th 1915 aboard the S.S. Metagama. The picture shown here is of S.S. Metagama leaving Montreal on that date.

S.S. Metagama leaving Montreal on May the 6th 1915
Robert was onboard

S.S. Metagama pulled out of Montreal docks at 11.15 am. with bands playing, a crowd of people, mostly relatives who had come to see the last of their lads cheered, waved handkerchiefs and flags, while every boat and mill around applauded them down the river with their whistles. The Metagama travelled down the St Lawrence River to Quebec and onwards to the Atlantic. May the 8th would be the last time Robert saw Canada, as they passed Cape Race Newfoundland, this was the last of Canada’s shores to gradually fade away into the mist and finally disappear from view altogether.

Troops onboard the S.S. Metagama 

            On May the 9th 1915, the Atlantic proved a little rough and some of the troops were seasick. The ship passed by some monster size icebergs about the same size as the liner with many large pieces of ice passing close to the ship, causing the liner to slacken speed considerably. It was a Sunday and they held a service on board, which by all accounts was a very impressive sight. As the evening approached, a fog came on, gradually getting heavier, no doubt caused by the amount of Icebergs they had been passing that day.

The ship was now far from land, with a noticeable lack of seagulls, there were however reports of small birds very similar to a Canadian water bird, commonly called a bell-diver. It was also reported that a couple of whales were seen spouting, by those lucky enough to witness this novelty. 

Conditions were once again causing much seasickness, and some found that staying on deck would help fight of the nausea, although the smell of tar and paint that pervaded the atmosphere of the forward cabins did not help. In fact, they appeared to have quite a few days where some would be seen rushing into lavatories as the seasickness hit once again.

Each day, whether fine or otherwise on the passage was devoted to sports, such as boxing, wrestling, playing bull in the ring etc. The evenings were enjoyed waltzing and shuffling to the tune of the bagpipes, bugles and the trumpet, bugle and drum band. The latter belong to the fifth Can. Field Ambulance. There are also some trained nurses on board, who were going to a stationary hospital somewhere in France. 

S.S. Metagama May 6th 1915

The S.S. Metagama had travelled across the Atlantic reaching the port of Devonport, England at 4am in the morning of Saturday 15th May 1915 and after most of the day spent here, they continued their journey in the late afternoon between 4pm and 6pm, by train towards Westenhanger Station in Kent. This was probably a considerable train journey, as they did not arrive at their destination until the next morning. On Sunday morning upon arrival at Westenhanger Station, the troops were then marched around 2 miles to West Sandling Camp, near Folkestone in Kent, where they took up quarters.

Canadian troops at West Sandling Camp, near Folkestone in Kent

They trained in the area for many months before leaving from Folkestone for the front in France on the 14th September 1915.

Grave of Robert Jobson in the Courcelette British Cemetery - Plot VII. F. 6

Robert had immigrated to Canada along with his Uncle "Bob" Robert Armour (born about 1880). However, the Great War came along and they both signed up to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Bob Armour survived and lived to the grand old age of 90, but Robert Jobson was killed sometime between 15th & 17th September 1916. He was Pte. R. Jobson 59509. 21st Bn. Canadian Inf. (Eastern Ontario Regt.) He is buried in the Courcelette British Cemetery - Plot VII. F. 6.  My Granny Paton, Annie had now lost both her parents and her younger brother.

WW1 Troops beside an early Tank

Courcelette is just to the north of the main D929 road between Albert and Bapaume. At the beginning of the Somme Battles in July 1916 this village was well within German held territory, and it was not until mid-September that the British reached this far. On the 15th of September 1916, the offensive known as the Battle of Flers-Courcelette was launched on a wide front, involving the first use of tanks.

At Courcelette, the Canadians attacked. After its capture, Courcelette remained near the front lines until the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line early in 1917, but it was taken again in their Spring Offensive on the 25th of March 1918. It was five months later before the British retook it as they advanced in the final few months of the War.

Robert Jobson was working as a farm labourer in the Orwell district near Milnathort, and is remembered on the "Orwell War Memorial " in Milnathort. 


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