Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 24, 1889
Place of BirthAberdeen
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJessie Robertson (mother), Robson Street, Vancouver, British Columbia
Trade / CallingLithographer
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number439080
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 16, 1915
Age at Enlistment25
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 10, 1970
Age at Death80

Robertson, Forbes Proctor

Private Forbes Proctor Robertson enlisted with the third overseas contingent and served for three years, most of that time with the Canadian Army Service Corps. He was discharged for medical reasons in April 1918.

Forbes was born on 24 September 1889 in Aberdeen, Scotland. His parents were John Robertson, a master tailor, and Jessie Martin. John and Jessie were married in 1869 and they had at least eight children: William, James, Elizabeth, Alexander, Jessie, Alfred, Charles and Forbes. Forbes was the youngest and his father died when he was a child. When the 1901 census was taken Jessie was widowed and living in Aberdeen with six children still at home. Forbes immigrated to Canada in the spring of 1912, at age 22, arriving in Halifax on 1 March on the SS Grampian. His occupation was lithographer and his destination Vancouver. His mother and sister Jessie joined him there three months later.

By late 1914 Forbes was living in the town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario. Recruiting was underway for a third overseas contingent and Forbes enlisted in Kenora on 16 January 1915. In March the volunteers became part of a new unit, the 52nd Overseas Battalion. It was based in Port Arthur and the Kenora recruits were sent there in June to join the rest of the battalion. While they were training the 1st Canadian Division was fighting in France and Belgium. Men were needed to replace casualties in the front line units and battalions in Canada were asked to send reinforcements. Forbes was sent to England in September 1915 with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft, one of 250 men from the 52nd Battalion. They embarked from Montreal on 4 September on the SS Missanabie and arrived in the UK on 13 September.

The day after arriving Forbes was transferred to the 12th Reserve Battalion. In November he was assigned to the Canadian Army Service Corps Training Depot and a month later he was sent to France, where he was posted to the Canadian Army Service Corps Pool. He had a problem with his feet that made it difficult for him to walk or march any distance. He spent some time working in the CASC Horse Transport section and on 3 March 1916 he was sent back to England, where he served for the next two years. Most of that time he was with the CASC and he was posted to various positions including clerical jobs, serving with the adjutant’s staff, several months at the pay office in London and working in an officers’ mess. He had a medical exam in February 1918 at Shorncliffe and it was decided that he was to be invalided to Canada because of the problem with his feet. He embarked from Liverpool on the SS Coriscan and arrived in Halifax on 17 March. He was discharged on 22 April in New Westminster, British Columbia, listed a medically unfit for overseas service. His character was described as very good.

Forbes settled in Vancouver and lived with his mother at 533 Robson Street. On 24 December 1918 Miss Amy Dorothy Lancey arrived in St. John’s, Newfoundland from Liverpool, her destination listed as 533 Robson Street. Forbes and Amy were married in Vancouver ten days later, on 3 January 1919. Their first child, Forbes William, was born on 29 January 1920. When the 1921 census was taken they were living on Renfrew Street in Vancouver and Forbes was working as a stone lithographer. A second son Angus Graham was born in 1924.

Amy was born and raised in Hackney, London and she wanted to return to England to live. They moved there in August 1927, sailing from Montreal on the SS Montrose and arriving in Liverpool, their destination listed as Clapton, London. They settled in the coastal town of Eastbourne in East Sussex. Five years later they moved to Aberdeen, Scotland and the two boys were enrolled in Robert Gordon’s College. The oldest son, Forbes William, went on to study zoology and natural history at Edinburgh University then he obtained a Ph.D. from Birmingham University. He had a long career as a distinguished geneticist and garden historian, devoting his life to teaching and research and publishing numerous articles, books and academic papers ( see his story here). He served with the Birmingham Home Guard during the Second World War and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

By the early 1950s Forbes Proctor was retired and he and his wife were living in Braemar, Aberdeenshire. Amy died there on 31 January 1953, at age 62. Forbes passed away in Edinburgh on 10 April 1970, at age 80. His mother and sister Jessie (Mrs. George Bruce) both died in Vancouver and they’re buried in Ocean View Burial Park in Burnaby.

By Becky Johnson

52nd-1915-01-20 52nd-1915-03-17 52nd-1915-09-22

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