Oliver Brock Robertson was born on 21 September 1920. In 1922, he was made a permanent ward of the Children and Aid Society of Oxford County, a regional municipality in the Canadian province of Ontario.
In January 1926, at the age of five, he was placed with Charles and Ella Ferris, and would live with them at their farm at Burgessville, in Oxford County, until he finished his education.
This was a mixed farm with milking cows and crops. The Ferrises had lost their younger son Norman in a farm accident in August 1924 when he was only 7 years old. There was an older son, Donald, who was around ten years older than Brock, and who would always treasure the memory of his adoptive brother.
Brock attended Beaconsfield Public School – a one-room school – and later Norwich High School. Amongst the treasured family heirlooms connected with Brock is a cartoon from sometime in the mid-1930’s. Brock was attacked by a bull in the barn while doing his before-school chores. He was gored in the back and was saved from death by Donald and Teddy, the family dog. Brock’s High School friends made the cartoon and sent it to him while he was recovering in hospital.
Interestingly, the goring injury and the broken wrist which he also suffered are mentioned in Brock’s RCAF Medical Board notes.
Although Brock and the Ferris family wanted to formalise his adoption, sadly this never happened, so when Brock joined the RCAF he was registered under his original surname (as can be seen above) although hitherto he had always been known as Brock Ferris.
Brock with his adoptive parents, Charles and Ella Ferris.
After Brock left the farm, around a year after High School, he worked at a dairy in Woodstock, Ontario, on an apprenticeship program. He lived in a rooming house in Woodstock, some ten minutes away from his birth brother, William Roy Robertson, who was ten years older. After Brock went missing, a letter confirming this was sent to William, and a similar letter was sent to Charles and Ella Ferris.
The Ferris family suffered the deepest grief when the death of Brock was confirmed.
Brock’s last day at the family farm before being posted overseas, March 1942.
Brock had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, only a month before his death, for an outstanding feat of captaincy and flying. See Hit by Incendiaries over the Target: the true story of Brock Robertson’s DFC.
Photographs and family information courtesy of Dalton Ferris, son of Donald Ferris, Brock’s adoptive brother.
Documents from the J10302 Oliver Brock Robertson service record in the Canadian National Archives, reference: FILE/DOSSIER : J10302 Oliver Brock Robertson, REFERENCE NUMBER / NUMÉRO DE RÉFÉRENCE: Service Number J10302 D.F.C.Reference number R112, Volume 30719 Item number 39587.
The Loss of the Robertson Crew
The Robertson crew were lost on the Nuremburg raid of 27/28 August 1943. The details of their last flight can be found in 97 Squadron’s Operations Record Book:
“Three inseparable Canadians”: 97 Squadron’s Adjutant, Flight Lieutenant L G Hind, wrote the above details about the crew in his scrapbook of memorabilia.
27/28 August 1943 Nuremburg – Bomb Load 4 x TI, 1 x 4000lb, 2 x 1000lb, 1 x 500lb, JA958K F/L O.B.Robertson, Sgt W.G.Peel, F/L E.G.Crockett, W/O P.Scott, F/O J.C.Frizzell, F/Sgt W.Wilkes, F/Sgt W.St C.Hebb. Bomb load as S/L Sauvage. Up 2143 – aircraft and crew missing.
Four of the crew were Canadians, and sadly all of them died, together with the mid-upper gunner.
- Pilot: Flight Lieutenant Oliver Brock Robertson, RCAF
- Flight Engineer: Sergeant W G Peel (seriously injured, survived as a prisoner of war)
- Navigator: Flight Lieutenant Earl Grant Crockett, RCAF
- Bomb Aimer: Warrant Officer P Scott (survived as a prisoner of war)
- W/Op: Flying Officer James Clifford Frizzell, RCAF
- Mid-Upper Gunner: Flight Sergeant Walter Ian Leslie Wilkes
- Rear Gunner: Flight Sergeant Warren St Clair Hebb, RCAF
There are some unusually detailed reports of the loss of the Robertson crew. One was drawn up in comparatively recent years by the Bubenreuth Home Association: The Loss of the Robertson Crew – German Civilian Reports. A more contemporary report had been drawn up in 1947, four years after the loss of the aircraft, by the MRES (Missing Research and Enquiry Service): Robertson Crew Loss – MRES Report,
The accounts differ in some respects.