Topic: Douglas Robertson

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A soldier of the Great War who died of malaria in Palestine.

Douglas Robertson - 17363    

Douglas was born at Courtenay on 29 September 1894, eldest son of George and Margaret Robertson. He was educated at Courtenay and at the Darfield High School, and, prior to enlisting worked on his father's farm. He was of a quiet, respectful and kindly disposition and was highly esteemed by all with whom he came in contact. He took a lively interest in the Presbyterian Church, and the Agricultural and Pastoral Association, of which he acted as assistant-secretary for several years. He was also an enthusiastic tennis player. He took a keen interest in the work of the Territorials, and always looked forward to the annual training as something real and essential. He was a member of the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry. He was 5ft 7in tall with dark complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair.                                                         

Douglas enlisted on 4th April 1916 and was assigned to the 18th Reinforcements, New Zealand Mounted Rifles. He entered the N.C.O. Training Camp, at Featherston, on 8th April, 1916 and was promoted to Corporal on 28th May 1916. Whilst at Featherston he spent a three weeks in hospital with a bout of measles in August 1916. He embarked on board the Manuka on 5th October 1916 to Sydney where he was transferred to the Morea for Suez. He disembarked at Suez on 14th November where he was attached to the Training Regiment and as usual dropped in rank to temporary Lance Corporal although he relinquished even this rank a few weeks later on 6th December. He was transferred to the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Brigade on 11th December and joined them in the field being posted to the 8th Squadron on 15th December. In January 1918 on the 19th he was transferred to the 1st Squadron. He was sent to hospital on 23rd suffering from tonsillitis and was admitted at Kantara on 26th and then on to the military hospital at Choubra on 29th. From there to Heliopolis on 5th June and finally discharged to duty at Moascar on 18th June. He re-joined his Brigade in the field on 24th June and as his obituary notes “saw a good deal of fighting in Palestine, and twice had his horses killed under him.” He was sent to rest camp at Port Said on 18th May 1918 returning to Moascar on 25th June. He re-joined the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Brigade and was posted to 1st Squadron in the field on 30th June. Some of this time would have been spent in the Jordan Valley, an area plagued by malaria carrying mosquitos. One of many struck down Douglas was sent to hospital and admitted to the Anzac Receiving Station on 6th October. These and other medical forces had been set up to cope with an expected outbreak. By mid October more than 1200 cases of malaria, largely due to Plasmodium falciparum, were occurring in a single week, with nearly 8% of the force requiring evacuation because of malaria. Douglas was admitted first to hospital in Gaza and then, as his condition worsened to “dangerously ill”, to the 24th Stationary Hospital Kantara. It was there that he died of malaria and pneumonia, on October 26th, aged only 21. He was buried in the Kanatara War Cemetery the following day. In New Zealand Douglas is remembered on the Malvern County War Memorial.

 

CWGC Cemetery locale history: Kantara War Memorial Cemetery is situated at Kantara East on the eastern side of the Suez Canal, 160 kilometres north-east of Cairo and 50 kilometres south of Port Said. In the early part of the First World War, Kantara was an important point in the defence of Suez against Turkish attacks and marked the starting point of the new railway east towards Sinai and Palestine, begun in January 1916. Kantara developed into a major base and hospital centre and the cemetery was begun in February 1916 for burials from the various hospitals, continuing in use until late 1920. After the Armistice, the cemetery was more than doubled in size when graves were brought in from other cemeteries and desert battlefields, notably those at Rumani, Qatia, El Arish and Rafa. The Second World War again saw Kantara as a hospital centre. No 1 General Hospital was there from July 1941 to December 1945 and two others, Nos 41 and 92, were there in turn for varying periods. One of the major allied medical units in the area, No 8 Polish General Hospital, adjoined the war cemetery. KANTARA WAR MEMORIAL CEMETERY now contains 1,562 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 110 from the Second World War. There are also 341 war graves of other nationalities in the cemetery, many of them made from the Polish hospital and concentrated in a distinct Polish extension. Near the entrance to the cemetery is the KANTARA MEMORIAL, bearing the names of 16 New Zealand servicemen of the First World War who died in actions at Rumani and Rafa, and who have no known grave. In 1961, nearby Kantara Indian Cemetery became inaccessible and it was decided that the 283 First World War servicemen buried there should instead be commemorated at Kantara War Memorial Cemetery. Panels bearing the names of the dead were affixed to the wall of the cemetery behind the Stone of Remembrance, forming the KANTARA INDIAN CEMETERY MEMORIAL.

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Douglas Robertson


First Names:Douglas
Last Name:Robertson
Date of Birth:29 September 1894
Place of Birth:Courtenay
Date of Death:26 October 1918
Place of Death:Kantara, Suez
Memorial or Cemetery:Kantara War Memorial Cemetery
Age at death:25
User Name:Selwyn Library
Occupation before enlisting:Farmer
Marital Status:Single
Regiment or Service:Canterbury Mounted Rifles
Country:New Zealand
Enlistment details:14 April 1916
Parents or Next of Kin:Son of George Thomas and Margaret Robertson, Courtenay, Malvern
Service Number:17363
Rank last held:Trooper
Embarkation:5 October 1916
Place of Embarkation:Wellington
Transport:Manuka and Morea
Theatres of War:Palestine
Cause of Death:Died of Malaria