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An Ayrshire Hero of WW1

On the 11th November 2008 at 11am it will be precisely 90 years since the armistice of The Great War (1914-1918).
It will be a time to reflect on the many men who gave their lives for King and Country and also to remember the great many acts of bravery carried out by ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances.
One such man was Ross Tollerton.
Private Ross Tollerton VC
Ross Anderson Tollerton was born on the 6th May 1890 in the Constabulary Office at Hurlford, Ayrshire. His father, James, was a police constable at that time, later rising to the rank of Sergeant before becoming a Sherriff Officer.
Early Years
Young Ross was educated at Laurie Knowe Primary and Maxwelltown High School, both Irvine.
At the tender age of 15 he joined 1st Cameron Highlanders and served time in South Africa and India.
On leaving the army in 1912 he went to work in the Irvine shipyard and was an engine keeper, there at the time of his marriage to Agnes Muir (47years) on 26th December 1913 at his address of 4 Kirkgate, Irvine.
Ross was on the reserve list when he was recalled to the Cameron Highlanders at the outbreak of WW1 in August 1914.
WW1
Barely a month later, on 14th Sept 1914, the Cameron Highlanders were involved in an attack on the German lines in the Aisne Valley. The Highlanders were subjected to heavy machine gun fire and lost 600 men that morning. Tollerton’s commanding officer, Lieutenant J S M Matheson was severely wounded but still lying in the enemy’s firing line. Private Tollerton proceeded to place Lieutenant Matheson over his shoulder and moved him to a place of greater safety. He then rejoined his company’s firing line. Now completely surrounded by the German’s and with no hope of immediate rescue, Private Tollerton  returned to his commanding officer and remained with him for three days, with only water to sustain them and both now wounded, until they were both rescued.
For this act of Bravery Ross Tollerton was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Citation
Ross Tollerton’s citation appeared in the London Gazette on 19th April 1915 and read as follows:
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on 14th September 1914 at the battle of the Aisne, he carried a wounded officer under heavy fire, as far as he was able to a place of safety, then, although  himself wounded in the head and hand, he struggled back to the firing line, where he remained till his battalion retired, when he returned to the wounded officer and lay beside him for three days until they were both rescued”
Presentation
On the 18th May 1915 at Glasgow Green a crowd of 50,000 saw Private Tollerton receive his Victoria Cross from His Majesty King George V.
Ross Tollerton was returned to the Western Front and survived the war, reaching the rank of Sergeant.
After the War
After he was demobilised in 1919, Ross became the janitor of Bank Street School, Irvine and also joined the Irvine Company of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, a Territorial Army (reserve) unit and became its Sergeant Major.
When the town War Memorial was unveiled in April 1921, Ross was invited to lay the first wreath.
Ross Tollerton never fully recovered from his injuries and died of stomach cancer on 7th May 1931.He had turned 41 years old the day before. His widow, Agnes, died in 1939 and at that time his VC passed to his brother, Alexander. In 1956, Alexander’s widow gave long term loan of the VC to the Regimental Museum of Queen’s Own Highlanders at Fort George, Ardersier, Inverness-shire, where it is on display to this day.

Ross Tollerton VC is buried in Knadgerhill Cemetery, Irvine and his grave is maintained and cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves


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