Squadron Leader Colin Robertson DFC

Colin ‘Robbie’ Robertson RAF (33412) was a distinguished fighter pilot who as a member of RAF 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron engaged the first World War Two German aircraft to attack Great Britain – 16 October 1939. This and subsequent actions led him to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). 

ROBERTSON, Colin, P/O (33412, Royal Air Force) – No.603 Squadron – Distinguished Flying Cross – awarded as per London Gazette dated 31 May 1940. Public Record Office Air 2/9413 has recommendation and the following citation which is a digest of the original submission. 

‘This officer has consistently shown skill and coolness in attacks on enemy aircraft, often in bad weather and always without Direction Finding facilities. On three occasions in October he was a member of sections which shot down an enemy aircraft in each engagement. On the 7th March he took part in an action in which an enemy aircraft was shot down and he also succeeded in closing in and reading its lettering which proved the aircraft to be one of the group operating directly under the German High Command. On 17th March, in poor visibility, he intercepted enemy aircraft which, however, escaped into low cloud.’

In October of 1942, Agnes McAndrew Black, the second daughter of D Black, GrayBank House, Perth, married RAF Squadron Leader Colin Robertson. Colin, the second son of the Robertsons, Roseneuk, Falkirk was educated at Falkirk High School and entered the RAF as an aircraft apprentice. He was promoted sergeant two years later. As the leading cadet at RAF College Cranwell, he graduated 17 December 1938 as a pilot officer.

Before the wastarted, Robertson was with RAF 41 Squadron at RAF Catterick in North Yorkshire. Here on 23 May 1939 he stalled and crashed during a night landing, Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1, K9842. The aircraft was ‘Struck Off Charge’ on 14 June 1939 as damaged beyond economic repair. it had first been flown at the Supermarine factory at Eastleigh, Southampton on 12 January 1939 and was delivered to the squadron on 16 January 1939. Total flying hours for Colin in a Spitfire was 97.15 at that time. He was then posted to RAF 603 Squadron at RAF Turnhouse, Edinburgh. 

Robertson suffered a fractured skull in a horse-riding accident in June 1940. As a result, he was stood down from flyingThis was just before the Battle of Britain (10 July 1940 to 31 October 1940) and means he does not count as one of the pilots who flew operationally in the battle. He was promoted to flying officer in June 1940, to flight lieutenant on 17 June 1941 and squadron leader on 1 July 1943. After serving some time in Canada, he returned to the UK and for two years flew de Haviland DH.98 Mosquitos, recording 365 flying hours’ time in the type.  

O12 December 1943, Robertson of RAF 25 Squadron was flying in his Mosquito DH.98 NF MkII, DD754. Two Mosquito aircraft were carrying out a non-operational flight. Being a night fighter squadron, they were not used to fighting during the day, and were practising mock combats in pairs. His squadron was training to provide fighter cover for bomber aircraft returning the following day from an attack on the V-2 development and production facilities at Peenemünde, near the Baltic Sea in Germany.  

His aircraft pitched up in a steep climbing turn without warning. It made a couple of spins before diving into marshy ground near West Flotmanby, west of Filey in North Yorkshire. 

The RAF Court of Enquiry into the crash noted that the horse-riding accident had changed ‘Robbie’ Robertson’s character ‘from debonnaire to foolhardy’, as he had attempted a loop at low level. A bit harsh and unfair given that Robertson had a considerable grand total of 1,116 flying hours experience at the time of his death. 

Flying Officer Ernest Bartholomew RAFVR, the navigator and radar operator was also killed in the crash. Bartholomew received his commission of pilot officer on 13 April 1943 and had just been promoted to flying officer on 13 October 1943. He was (likely) aged around 28 years. 

Robertson was a prominent athlete and won honours playing rugby,  running events and in a sabre championship at RAF College Cranwell. S Robertson is buried at the Camelon Cemetery at Falkirk. He was aged 26 years. On 25 June 1944, a daughter was born to Agnes and the late Colin at St Johnstoun Nursing Home, Perth. 

Mosquito DH.98 NF MkII, DD754 was involved in an earlier crash on 28 April 1943. DD754 assigned then to RAF 25 Squadron, took off from RAF Church Fenton on a night-time test flightWhile in the air the aircraft was about to fly onto cloud so the pilot, Sergeant John Richard Brockbank, made a tight turn to avoid it. A bang was heard, and the observer, sergeant David McCausland, reported a hole in the starboard tailplane. The starboard undercarriage would not lock down nor would it retract. The observer was instructed to bail out and the pilot made a one-wheel landing back at RAF Church Fenton. When the speed reduced, the starboard wing dropped, and it came to rest with some damage. Both crew members were unharmed. The problem was later found to be a known issue with the undercarriage door catch. The starboard undercarriage leg had dropped down in flight causing the door to break off and strike the tail. The dropping down of the undercarriage leg had caused damage to its front spar and the hydraulic system. The same thing happened to another Mosquito, DD747 on 8 April 1943, but this time the door caused the tail of the aircraft to break off. DD747 crashed with the loss of both crew members. 

Mosquito DH.98 NF MkII’s were fitted with AI (Airborne Interception) Radar and Gee Navigation sets were installed.  

V-2 rocket production at Peenemünde was eventually destroyed by allied bombing and was relocated to Nordhaussen, Thuringia. The Mittelbau-Dora Nazi concentration camp on the outskirts of Nordhaussen was established in 1943 to provide slave labour for the underground Mitelwerk V-2 rocket factory in the Kohnstein Hill. Of the 60,000 inmates, 20,000 died from bad working conditions, diseases, starvation or were murdered. Around 10,00 worked in several factories within the city. The Junkers aircraft factory interned 6,000 forced labour prisoners at Boelcke Kaserne, a subcamp of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. When the work camps were liberated by the US Army, blueprints for the projected A-9/A-10 intercontinental missile were found in the factories. Work on the supersonic missile was carried out in late 1944 under the Projekt Amerika codename. Perhaps, capable of speeds of 6,300 miles per hour and 3,000 miles range, it could have reached a target in the United States in 35 minutes.

Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun who worked at Peenemünde and Nordhaussen, helped design the V-2 rocket. He was secretly moved to the United States after the war and his later work led to the development of the Saturn V rocket, that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the moon.  

Mosquito DD752 production notes:
Serial: DD752
Build Type: F.II, Merlin 21/22 engines
Build Location: Hatfield
Contract Number: 555/C.23(a)
Contract Date: 9-2-1941
Delivery Period: Between 25-2-1942 and 15-10-1942

Squadron Leader Colin Robertson, Perthshire Advertiser 18 December 1943

THE R.A.F. MOSQUITO : MARK II (FIGHTER INTRUDER) (CH 9474) Original wartime caption: This picture shows the R.A.F, Mosquito, Mark II – a new version of the Mosquito light bomber, now in use as a fighter and an intruder. Mosquitos in formation. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205449263

AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: DE HAVILLAND DH 98 MOSQUITO. (CH 14649) Mosquito NF Mark XIII, HK382 ?RO-T?, of No. 29 Squadron RAF, at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire. View looking into the cockpit through the starboard entry hatch in the nose. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212759

AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: DE HAVILLAND DH 98 MOSQUITO. (CH 14646) Mosquito NF Mark XIII, HK382 ?RO-T?, of No. 29 Squadron RAF, at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire. The view looking along the lower fuselage towards the tail, showing the aircraft’s armament of four forward-firing 20mm Hispano cannon. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212760

AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: DE HAVILLAND DH 98 MOSQUITO. (CH 17859) Mosquito B Mark XVIs of No. 692 Squadron RAF (PF392 ‘P3-R’ nearest), lined up at Graveley, Huntingdonshire. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205127038