Great-great granddaughters will remember Victoria Cross hero and his three fallen brothers at ceremony
were four young brothers, inseparable in life and, tragically, inseparable in death. Within two months of the outbreak of the First World War, the Anderson brothers, Bertie, Ronnie, Charlie and Teddie, had enlisted. Not one would survive.
“So glad we are all in this war,” Charlie wrote in a letter home soon after they’d signed up.
It was a commonly-held sentiment of the time as families, work colleagues and neighbours from across the country set forth to do their bit.
But parents William and Nora, who fundraised and collected medical supplies from their home in the West End of Glasgow, were to pay the ultimate sacrifice.
They had suffered heartbreak when their third child Harry died a week after he was born in 1887...but none of their four remaining sons would return from the
First World War.
The brave band of brothers all laid down their lives, with Bertie doing so with such selfless bravery that he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
Earlier this year, exactly 100 years after his death, a memorial paving stone was laid in honour of Bertie at the People’s Palace. And there is a memorial to all four brothers in Glasgow Cathedral.
Today, their story will be remembered at a service at the cathedral attended by 1,200 people including the First Minister and Bertie’s great-grandson Robin Scott-elliot and his daughters Iona and
Robin, who has written a novel, The
Way Home – which includes a collection of letters between the brothers and their mother – is determined the heartbreaking story of his great-grandfather and brothers is not forgotten.
“Growing up, I’d heard this story of my great-granddad winning the VC and his brothers also dying, but there wasn’t a lot of detail,” said Robin, from Helensburgh.
“My dad was in the Army and as a teenager my brother and I were taken to see the cemeteries at the Somme. There were thousands upon thousands of headstones, all identical, and then you see one that says WH Anderson.
“I started tracking down whatever I could, papers and albums, and from those, I started to get a picture of the man and his brothers.” The boys grew up between family homes in Fife and Glasgow and they went to school at Fettes College in Edinburgh and Glasgow Academy. The outbreak of war saw Charlie already a career soldier, as he’d joined the Highland Light Infantry (HLI) in India in 1908.
Bertie, who had already been a military man before joining his dad’s accountancy firm, was recommissioned within weeks. Ronnie and Teddie, then just 18, soon followed.
It was only a matter of months before the first tragic loss of Charlie, who died only a week after he’d arrived at Givenchy in northern France, where there was fierce fighting. “I think of the mother Nora sitting at home, dreading the knock on the door,” said Robin. Charlie was recommended by his colonel for his gallantry. It was said that his men would follow him everywhere.
He is the only brother to have no grave, with his name listed at the Le Touret Military Cemetery. The more Robin dug into the mists of time, the more real and human the brothers became. “I found myself calling them ‘the boys’ and they did become ‘alive’ to me.
“The first time I read about Ronnie, who was
Iona, left, and Torrin Scott-elliot with a picture of their great-great grandfather Bertie Anderson
A Victoria Cross