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At The Palace

Sunday, 5 December 1915: Leaving for London

On Sunday, 5 December, Robert left behind the day-by-day pressure of attending events and making speeches, as well as acting as an informal recruiting officer for the frontline war effort. He had enhanced his standing at every event he attended, and demonstrated a breadth of personal skills that added to his stature as a fine, brave man and soldier. He delivered short and relevant speeches well and always seemed to be ‘on message’. All reports describe Robert as unassuming and modest. There could be no doubt that this humble miner was a first-class human being who set an outstanding example for young men and women in his home county of Fife and beyond.

That night, Robert took the mail train at Kirkcaldy Station heading for London and his upcoming appointment with King George V, at Buckingham Palace. One newspaper described his departure as follows: ‘Almost as quietly and unobtrusively as he arrived home Private Robert Dunsire VC, Buckhaven, left again after 14 days of furlough’. I suspect this describes Robert’s demeanour rather than what happened at the station.

Sir Robert Lockhart, Provost of Kirkcaldy, came to say his farewells, along with Kate and members of Robert’s close family. There were also some townspeople to wish him well. The train also carried other soldiers returning from furlough. At that time, soldiers were only permitted home leave after 15 months. It was not till autumn 1916 that more regular leave allowances were made. The men travelling with Robert were returning from their first leave or after recovering from injury.

Robert would not have been aware that Piper Laidlaw of the 7th King’s Own Scottish Borderers and Corporal Pollock of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, who had both also been awarded the Victoria Cross for acts of valour at Loos, had been at Buckingham Palace the previous day to receive their medals. The King would already be familiar with the bravery and conduct of Scottish soldiers during the Battle of Loos. Each had a different story; each was equally brave in their actions on the battlefield.


Monday, 6 December 1915: London

After his overnight journey from Kirkcaldy there is little evidence of how Robert spent the Monday after he arrived in London. The only report states that he went to the War Office when he arrived. No doubt he was suitably briefed then prepared his uniform for the next day.


Tuesday, 7 December 1915: Buckingham Palace

The Court Circular from the Newcastle Journal of the following day, 7 December 1915, reveals the bare facts of this momentous day when Robert Anderson Dunsire VC, a miner from Fife, now serving with the 13th Battalion of the Royal Scots, went to Buckingham Palace to receive his Victoria Cross medal from King George V for his act of valour on 26 September 1915, at Loos, France.

Attr: Newcastle Journal - Wednesday 8 December 1915 Image © Mirrorpix/Reach Licensing.

Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

At the time of Robert’s investiture ceremony, King George V was still recovering from a horse-riding accident at La Buissière, an area familiar to Robert. At the time of the accident, the King was reviewing the troops of the First Army, which included detachments of the 15th Division. The accident happened on 28 October, when the King’s horse reared up, and he was thrown, severely bruised and initially confined to bed.

The ceremony for Private Robert Anderson Dunsire VC took place at the time of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Robert explained to a reporter afterwards that the King was standing at a table when he entered the reception room. He shook hands firmly with Robert and Robert’s citation for his act of valour was read out.

Following that, the King pinned the Victoria Cross medal to the left-hand side of Robert’s jacket. Robert’s immediate thought was how proud he felt to be British. The King asked what Robert did before his army service and Robert explained he was a miner. The King then congratulated Robert on his brave action and told him he hoped he would wear his medal for many years into the future.

Attr: Daily Record - Thursday 09 December 1915 Image © Mirrorpix/Reach Licensing.

Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Questioned by the press after the ceremony, Robert was asked to explain the act of valour that brought him today’s ceremony. Again, in his own inimitable way, Robert played down what he had done: I couldn’t leave them lying there so I went out to rescue them. After explaining what he had done in a hail of gunfire, Robert finished by saying he hadn’t been nervous, and that he had been more nervous at the Palace.

Formalities over, Robert was now ready for his trip back to France and any further action that faced him.

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