All four are to­gether again now, as in the old child­ish days, no gap be­tween this band of glo­ri­ous broth­ers

Great-great grand­daugh­ters will re­mem­ber Vic­to­ria Cross hero and his three fallen broth­ers at cer­e­mony

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Bill Gibb BGIBB@SUNDAYPOST.COM

They 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

the sec­ond one to be killed in Oc­to­ber 1915, I was in the Pub­lic Records Of­fice in Kew. The di­ary en­try just says, ‘Quiet day, Sec­ond Lieu­tenant An­der­son killed.’

“You couldn’t help but think that in that one line, his life gone.”

Ron­nie had writ­ten home to his mother say­ing: “If I get killed, don’t say: ‘So like Ron’s care­less way.’”

He had been caught in a sniper’s sights as he passed through a trench close by where Char­lie had died. He is buried at the Cabaret-Rouge Bri­tish Cer­e­mony at Souchez.

Ted­die trans­ferred from the HLI to the Royal Fly­ing Corps fly­ing re­con­nais­sance mis­sions dur­ing the Bat­tle of the Somme be­fore be­com­ing an in­struc­tor. He died, aged 21, af­ter his plane crashed near Winch­ester in 1918.

Wil­liam and Nora at least had the so­lace of let­ters about his fi­nals hours in hospi­tal.

The ma­tron who nursed him wrote: “His was a beau­ti­ful face, and I am sure he was good and true and knightly.”

Jean Hamil­ton, a cousin of the boys’ mother Nora, wrote a jour­nal record­ing their deaths, writ­ing: “And now Ted­die has gone too, Ted­die the sunshine, ‘Lit­tle Ben’, as his broth­ers called him, and his mother’s ‘Honey Bee’.”

A friend wrote that when B [Ber­tie] saw his brother’s death an­nounced in the pa­pers he shut him­self into his room for two hours, but never said a word to any­one.

This last sur­viv­ing Arm­strong was to live just days longer than his baby brother.

Af­ter three days of heavy fight­ing, the Ger­mans had reached a point on the River Somme that left the weary Bri­tish forces ex­posed and at great risk.

Colonel An­der­son per­son­ally led a counter-at­tack across deadly open ground.

He drove the Ger­mans back, capturing 12 ma­chine guns and taking 70 pris­on­ers.

When the Ger­mans at­tacked later that day, Ber­tie, 36, once again ral­lied his troops.

His VC ci­ta­tion stated that he “led he at­tack in per­son and through­out showed the ut­most dis­re­gard for his own safety”.

Ad­vanc­ing in front of his men, he had his re­volver in one hand and his swag­ger stick in the other when he fell to the ground, mor­tally wounded.

His body was found where it had fallen and his ef­fects were sent home to widow Gertrude and their two sons. He was buried at the Peronne Road Ceme­tery.

Jean Hamil­ton wrote: ‘All four [broth­ers] are to­gether again now, as in the old child­ish days – no gap be­tween this band of glo­ri­ous broth­ers.”

Nora had an al­bum put to­gether in 1918.

“It felt like that was the out­let for her to deal with the death of her sons,” said Robin. “It in­cluded a cal­en­dar for March 1918 when the last two were killed. There is a black X marked on the 16th, when Ted­die was killed, and one on the 21st, the date of his fu­neral.

“And there’s an­other one on the 25th mark­ing Ber­tie’s death. That stark­ness is strik­ing to see.”

Robin’s daugh­ters un­veiled the paving stone at the Peo­ple’s Palace on the an­niver­sary of Ber­tie’s death.

And this af­ter­noon they will present the Princess Royal with a bou­quet of flowers as she leaves Glas­gow Cathe­dral af­ter the spe­cial ser­vice.

“The sac­ri­fice still hits home to me,” adds Robin. “I feel I want to keep their story alive as they didn’t get to live their lives.

“I want my daugh­ters to re­mem­ber them, but I think ev­ery­one should re­mem­ber the First World War as it was suf­fer­ing on such a mas­sive scale.”

Iona, left, and Tor­rin Scott-El­liot with a pic­ture of their great-great grand­fa­ther Ber­tie An­der­son

A Vic­to­ria Cross

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