Robert Dunsire V.C.
Although not a native of Kirkcaldy, Robert Dunsire lived, was partly educated, worked and raised a family here, and is memorialised in the street named after him.
Awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry at the Battle of Loos, Dunsire enjoyed an all too brief period of rest and recognition back home in late 1915, being granted Freedom of the Burgh.
He returned to the front, only to be killed in action in early 1916, one of so many young men lost to the Great War but hopefully not to our civic memory.
In depth written study
Grateful thanks to Methil Heritage Centre for permission to use some of the photographs
18274 Robert Dunsire, V.C.
Robert was born on the 26th November 1891 in Buckhaven. He was the 9th child in a family of 13, having 6 brothers and 6 sisters. When Robert was 5 years old the family moved to Kirkcaldy where Robert’s father was employed at Dunnikier Colliery. Robert’s education came at two local primary schools – Sinclairtown and Pathhead. On leaving school Robert, like so many others, found employment in the local collieries.
Robert was a gifted musician, playing both the coronet and the violin. He was a member of a number of local bands and orchestras. He was also a member of Kirkcaldy YMCA.
Robert married a Denbeath girl – Kate Pitt - on the 22nd July 1914. In the 6 months before the wedding, Robert had moved to Methil and was working at the Rosie Pit at the time of his marriage. After the wedding, the couple moved in with Kate’s parents at 210 Denbeath, which later became 210 Dee Street. The couple had no children.
In January of 1915, Robert left the “miner’s life” and enlisted in the Army. He joined the 13th Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment). He chose to enlist, as conscription had not yet come into effect. He spent 6 months training before being posted overseas to France. He had only been in France for two months when he was involved in the Battle of Loos which was fought between 25th September and 8th October 1915.
The intention of the action was to break through the German lines and restart a war of movement, as opposed to trench warfare.
The battle was a disaster for the allied troops with 59247 killed or wounded and not a yard of ground gained. It was during this battle, on the 26th September on Hill 70, Robert won his V.C. He spotted a wounded soldier in “No Man’s Land” and, leaving the safety of the trenches, crawled out and brought the man back to the lines. Only 15 minutes later he saw another wounded man, this time considerably nearer the enemy trenches. Once again, without thought for his own safety, he went out and once more brought the wounded soldier to the shelter of the allied trenches.
Both of the rescues were achieved under a hail of bullets and shell fire.
The award was announced on the 18th November and Robert was immediately given leave, returning home on the 22nd November. Robert was showered with congratulations, presentations and honours, during his two week’s furlough. Everyone wanted to meet him – everyone wanted to cheer him – everyone wanted to shake his hand. In a whirlwind of activity and visits he was honoured by Kirkcaldy and also his native burgh of Buckhaven, along with attending countless other functions.
He left Kirkcaldy Station on the 6th December and, the following day, His Majesty the King pinned the highest honour a soldier can gain to his left breast.
He returned to France but sadly, on the 30th January 1916, Robert was killed when a mortar shell burst through the roof of a bomb proof shelter. Robert and a comrade were killed whilst the other soldier in the shelter was critically wounded.
Robert’s star, rose, shone, and fell, over a very brief period but his name is still remembered as one of Fife’s heroic sons.
It remains a great pity that none of his family had the opportunity of seeing the man and his medal together. Such is so often the fate of the bravest of the brave.