Arthur Robertson was born on Friday 18th January 1929 and raised in
Newbury Berkshire. He joined the Royal Naval School of Music at Scarborough
in September 1943, where he enlisted as a member of 87 Squad.
Musician Robertson gave service onboard the cruiser HMS Euryalus in
South Africa in 1954, she had been transferred to the South Atlantic
6th Cruiser Squadron stationed at Simonstown, South Africa and acted
as Flagship.. during this period, she was docked in the Selborne dry
dock. In September, HMS Euryalus sailed for the UK and arrived back
at Devonport on the 19th September, before her decommissioning. James
was then posted to band at HMS Terror, Singapore in 1959.
was selected as a student for the 1961 Bandmasters class along with
the likes of Terry Freestone, Ben Finney and Fred Mathias. James was
appointed as the new Bandmaster of the Royal Marines Band Britannia
Royal Naval College in 1965, when he took over the baton from the departing
Bandmaster Donald Drake. Michael Hutton was best man at Jim’s
wedding in approx 1965-66. The day to day running of the band however
still fell largely on the shoulders of BCSgt Ken Keast.
It was fair to say ‘Robbie’ was an extremely sociable character,
Michael Bartholomew was always his first choice for babysitting.. when
he went on a bender.. he’d always return home with a bottle of
whisky for him as a reward. The Bandmaster was at one time spotted walking
around Dartmouth with a blow up animal on a lead !
Mike Griffiths became Jim's unofficial chauffeur while at the college
and here’s one of his memorable dits... “At two o’clock
in the morning the band mess telephone rings and I get out of bed to
answer it. On the other end of the phone is our Bandmaster Jim Robertson
who asks me to go and pick him up from the bus shelter at the bottom
of Totnes by the Harris bacon factory. The band had paraded in a march
in Torquay the previous afternoon, Jim decided not to return to Dartmouth
with the rest of the band following the gig and was last seen heading
off with a young female. It was later learnt that after some action
with the young lady... Jim had decided to try and hitch hike back to
BRNC... By the time he arrived in Totnes he’d had enough, so he
phoned me. Following his call, I got dressed, revved up my little Ford
van and headed off to Totnes. When I arrived at the bus shelter, there
was Jim fast asleep fully booted and spurred with a package of fish
and chips on his lap. After convincing Jim that the fish and chips were
now cold we ditched them and got into the van for the trip back to the
college, we’d only got halfway up Totnes High street when Jim
shouts stop... he gets out and manages to retrieve two bars of chocolate
from a vending machine. We were now set for the trip back in which Jim
(who by the way had had a few drinks) kept repeating what a good bloke
On arriving outside the Chiefs and PO’s Mess I was ordered to
stay in bed and not to go on parade. Jim was a definite character, a
one off, but a really decent bloke”.
did have a serious side to him and had a very good heart. If any member
of the band had a problem of any kind.. he would always make time to
sort it out...
James’s thirty-two months stay was up at the college in January
1968, it was fair to say he left an impression as the popular Bandmaster
departed in a blaze of glory when the band played him off his last parade
to ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘Will Ye No Come Back Again’...
The parade was followed by the presentation of a tankard in the CPO’s
Mess. Bandmaster Robertson was succeeded at the helm by Staff Bandmaster
married twenty-three year old Shirley Tedder from Harwich in Colchester
in 1968. Following a twelve month spell at HQ (M) Company, he retired
from the Royal Marines Band Service in early 1969. He was deservedly
awarded the WWII British Campaign and Long Service & Good Conduct
medals along the way.
James A Robertson sadly passed away on 21st April 1997 aged 68 in Abingdon
Berkshire, having lived with Alzheimer’s Disease. James and Shirley
have a son named Andrew.