Ross Tollerton

Ross Tollerton : First World War

Ross Tollerton was born in Ayr, Scotland on 6th May, 1890. After being educated at Maxwell Town School, he joined the 1st Cameron Highlanders when he was fifteen. In 1906 he went to South Africa and later served in India.

After leaving the British Army in 1912 Tollerton worked in the Irvine Shipyard. As a reservist, he was recalled to the Cameron Highlanders at the outbreak of war in August 1914. Tollerton arrived in France in time to take part in the battles at the Marne and the Aisne Valley.

On the 14th September the Cameron Highlanders were involved in an attack on German lines. That morning the Highlanders lost 600 men from machine-gun fire. Lieutenant J. S. M. Matheson, Tollerton's commanding officer, was one of those wounded. Although Tollerton had been shot in the head, back and hand, he decided to carry Matheson to safety. As he was surrounded by the enemy, Tollerton could only move under cover of darkness. Matheson was extremely heavy and it took him three days before he got back to the British lines. Although Matheson had been shop in the spinal cord he survived.

Tollerton was awarded the Victoria Cross for his act of bravery. The medal was presented to Tollerton by King George V at a ceremony attended by 50,000 people at Glasgow Green on 18th May 1915. Promoted to Sergeant, Tollerton returned to the Western Front and survived the war.

After Tollerton was demobed he became a janitor at Bank Street School in Irvine. When the town war memorial was unveiled in April 1921, Tollerton was invited to lay the first wreath. Of the 2,000 men from the town of Irvine who served in the First World War, 238 of them had been killed.

Ross Tollerton health was badly damaged by his war experiences and he died aged forty-one on 7th May, 1931. Major J. S. M. Matheson, the man whose life Tollerton had saved sixteen years before, sent a wreath.