A WORLD War 2 Spitfire pilot whose remains were found in a field last
year has been laid to rest in a Glasgow cemetery.
Twenty-year-old pilot Sergeant Malcolm Robertson of the Royal New
Zealand Air Force died when his Spitfire crashed in the Scottish
Borders on January 16, 1943.
He was killed after his single-engined Supermarine Spitfire mark one
crashed in a field near the village of Westruther, Berwickshire during
a training sortie.
The partial remains of Sergeant Robertson were discovered during the
excavation of a Spitfire in Scotland in July 2012.
Last year’s excavation of the crash site, which recovered pieces of
the spitfire, also uncovered human bones and now these remains have
been interred in Sgt Robertson’s grave.
The young airman was the only person on board the single-seater
aircraft when it crashed shortly after embarking on a training flight
from Drem air base, East Lothian.
An initial crash inspection in 1943 recovered parts of a uniform, dog
tags and a single flight boot, which were interred at Craigton
Cemetery in Glasgow, following a wartime board of inquiry.
The service was conducted by RAF Prestwick Captain, Rev David Ness,
with the RNZAF represented by Squadron Leader Susie Barns.
Sqn Ldr Burns said: “The rededication service was a poignant time to
reflect on service and sacrifice.
“Sergeant Robertson has now been reburied with the honour and dignity
befitting an RNZAF pilot.”
Sergeant Robertson was educated at Auckland Grammar and registered for
military training in 1940 shortly after his 18th birthday.
He was trained at the Flying Training schools at Whenuapai and Ohakea.
He left New Zealand for Britain in 1941 and was posted to RAF No.243
Squadron one week after his 20th birthday.
Kenny Walker, of the air crash investigation group who excavated the
site, also attended the service and represented Sgt Robertsons family.
He recited the family eulogy, speaking of the family’s vision of Sgt
Robertson’s final flight.
“We visualise how it probably was for you when, in October 1942, you
were posted to RAF 65 Squadron at nearby Drum.
“Constantly training, flying exercises, more operations, the cold of a
Scottish winter and plying the skies in a Supermarine Spitfire,” Mr
Walker told those present.
“We have thought about you as we think you might have been at 1540
hours on 16 January, 1943, when you powered Spitfire AR403 into cloudy
skies for a one-hour practice flight.
“Our vision is that the challenge in completing your flight far
overshadowed the sound of the mighty Rolls Royce Merlin [engine] and
any fleeting moments of exhilaration before you plunged through the
Iain Anderson of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission attended the
service, alongside members of the Air Crash Investigation and
Archeology Group that excavated the wreck.
Police officers were also in attendance.
Royal Air Force Station Drem was one of the most active fighter
stations in Scotland during the Second World War.
Situated in East Lothian, its position at the mouth of the Forth
estuary provided first-line cover for the city, the Forth Bridge and
naval base at Rosyth.
It also lay in the path of German bombers heading over to Glasgow and
Clydebank and became a fighter defence base following the outbreak of
the Second World War.
Spitfire squadron 602 flew from the base to intercept the first German
air raid on Britain on naval ships positioned near the Forth Bridge.
The salvaged parts of Sgt Robertson’s Spitfire were put on display at
a museum in Haddington.