John Alexander Robertson

Military Information

  • Date of enlistment:
  • Place of enlistment:
  • Service no: 185730
  • Rank: Able Seaman
  • Service Occupation:
  • Awards:
  • Regiment/Service: H.M.S. Formidable
  • Unit/Ship: Royal Navy
  • Place of Death: Lost at Sea
  • Age at Death: 39
  • Date of Death: 01.01.1915
  • Burial Country:
  • Cemetery: Chatham Naval Memorial
  • Grave/Mem Ref no: Panel 10

Personal Information

  • Date of Birth:
  • Place of Birth: Forfar
  • Address: 22 Wolseley St, Dundee
  • Occupation:
  • Mother:

    Jane Robertson, 22 Wolseley St, Dundee

  • Father:

    Alexander Robertson, 22 Wolseley St, Dundee

  • Siblings:
  • Spouse:
  • Children:

More about John Alexander Robertson


The Dundee members of the crew of the ill-fated Formidable included John A. Robertson, whose parents reside at 22 Wolseley Street.  His name has not appeared in the lists of survivors, and it is feared that the gallant gunner has gone down with the ship.  Robertson who was unmarried, was a navy man of many years experience.

Dundee Courier 5th January 1915

Alexander has no known grave but is remembered on the Chatam Naval Memorial. He was serving aboard H.M.S. Formidable, 15,250 tons, pre-Dreadnought Battleship, launched in 1898, first commissioned in 1901 and torpedoed by German U-boat 24 on New Year’s Day 1915 while on exercises. She sank in 180 feet of water about 37 miles off the Devon coast, the first British battleship to be sunk in the First World War.

Only 199 men were saved out of a complement of about 750.

H.M.S. Formidable was sunk by two torpedoes from a German submarine 20 miles off Start Point at 2 am, 1st January 1915, in the first year of the First World War. The first torpedo hit the number one boiler port side; a second explosion caused the ship to list heavily to starboard. Huge waves thirty feet high lashed the stricken ship, with strong winds, rain and hail, sinking it in less than two hours.

Although his Service Record uses John Robertson his family insisted that he was Alexander Robertson according to a note on his service record dated 1923. He was born in Forfar and was the son of Mr Alexander and Mrs Jane Robertson later of 22 Wolseley Street and 11 Herons Lane, Dundee. He was a Mill Worker when he joined the Royal Navy in 1898. He served in many ships during his time including HM Ships Edinburgh, Charybdis, Furious, Astrea, Cruiser, Albemarle, Kent, Aphrodite, Minotaur and Caesar. In April 1914 he was drafted to the pre dreadnought battleship HMS Formidable. The Formidable was one of eight ships of the 5th Battle Squadron which sailed from Sheerness on 30 December 1914. The Squadron passed through the Strait of Dover heading west when they were spotted by U-24, a German submarine. It trailed them throughout 31 December and attacked before midnight. The first attack failed but the second hit the starboard side of the Formidable, the last ship in the line. The ship took on a list and launched boats into the stormy sea. Only 157 were saved and 547 died in the sinking. Alexander Robertson is named on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent. CWGC Records name him as Alexander Robertson but he is listed as John in the Scottish National War Memorial

Information supplied by Gary Thomson, additional information and image kindly supplied by Michael Caldwell

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