Tuesday, January 1, 2013 | By: Rudi Butt

Dr. Robert Cecil Robertson, Cheated Death Twice But Not Thrice

Updated (partial) on January 1, 2013

Notable Doctors From the First 100 Years
A Biography of

Robert Cecil Robertson

b. December 16, 1889 Kilmarnock - d. August 4, 1942 Hong Kong; son of a glass merchant; M.B., Ch.B., Glasgow University (1914); Captain (temporary commission), R.A.M.C. during WWI and gained a Military Cross; M.R.C.P., D.P.H. (1919), Edinburgh; F.R.F.P.S. (1920); M.D., Glasgow University (1921); Assistant Pathologist, Shanghai Health Department (1925); Henry Lester Research Institute, Shanghai (1929), Head of Division of Pathology; Commissioner, League of Nations anti-epidemic unit No.2 (1930s); President, Shanghai Medical Society;  Professor and head of Pathology Department, professor of bacteriology and pharmacology, University of Hong Kong (1939-1942), succeeding Professor L.J. Davies; held in internment by the Japanese army after the Battle of Hong Kong in the Bacteriological Institute; said to have took his life by jumping from the roof of the Institute on August 4, 1942; member, British Medical Association (1917-1942); gifted painter and photographer; photo on the left: Soochow Watergate, by R.C. Robertson, oil on canvas

Dr. Robrtson cheated death twice in Shanghai. The second time was in August 1937, when KMT army attacked the Japanese flagship in Shanghai and bombs fell disastrously in the International Settlement. Dr. Robertson was officially reported among the 2,000 dead, but his families in Scotland later received a cablegram from him bearing the single word "unharmed". The first incident took place three year earlier and was reported in detail in the British Medical Journal dated March 17, 1934:

All in the Day's Work - Details have now reached this country, through the columns of the Shanghai Times, of the kidnapping and escape from death of Dr. R. Cecil Robertson, head of the division of pathology and bacteriology of the Henry Lester Institute of Medical Research, Shanghai, and a member of the British Medical Association. On January 31st Dr. Robertson left his home in his car for the institute with his chauffeur and the 8-year-old son of his Chinese cook, who was to be vaccinated

Dr. Robertson put up a fierce fight, during which he was twice shot at; appeals for help to Chinese police and bystanders were ignored. Dr. Robertson explained who he was, and his captors appeared surprised and disappointed, but the car continued its course. Resuming the struggle, one of the Chinese was wounded in the hand by his own revolver, the speed of the car slackened, and Dr. Robertson forced open the car door and jumped out, holding the boy. His captors made no further attack upon him, but drove off rapidly and escaped. Dr. Robertson, who is president of the Shanghai Medical Society, owed his life to the failure of a revolver to fire when in contact with his head. He ascribes the incident to an error on the part of the gangsters, who had presumably proposed – to carry off a wealthy Chinese, but mistook the car. He was twice wounded in the war in France, and was awarded the M.C. He went out to Shanghai in 1925, and was at first pathologist to the Shanghai Municipal Council, joining the Henry Lester Institute in 1929.



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