New book tells the story of a World War One hero

Author Roy Laycock
Author Roy Laycock

A new book on a virtually unknown hero of the First World War will be launched later this month.

‘‘As Good As Any Man, Scotland’s Black Tommy’’ tells the story of Private Arthur Roberts.

Arthur, from Anderston in Glasgow, signed up with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and then the the Royal Fusiliers when he was just 20, and went over the top at Passchendaele.

The fascinating story of his life has been researched by former quantity surveyor Roy Laycock (71), one of the book’s co-authors, who was introduced to the story by a family friend.

His research led him to discover that not only was Arthur a heroic soldier, he had also been an aircraft gunner.

Roy, who lives in Kirkintilloch, said: ‘‘The book is about a black world war one fighter who came from Bristol to Glasgow and enlisted in 1917. He was sent to the front, went over the top at Passchendaele, kept a diary, which he should not have done, took a camera into battle, which he should not have done and could have been court martialled for, and then later wrote some reminiscences.

‘‘He also did a lot of sketches, including the opening barrage of the battle of Ypres at Passchendaele.’’

His diaries, photos, sketches and memoirs have been bought by the Imperial War Museum who will be running an exhibition from April on the man.

Roy has spent five or six years working on the project with historians and authors, doing much of the research work.

‘‘His diaries were found in a box in an attic in Mount Vernon, used by a student for her thesis and then through a family friend I was asked to work on them, as I had time on my hands and was cheap! It has evolved from there.’’

Arthur never rose above the rank of private and never received any formal recognition for his heroics – historians attribute this to all the senior officers who could have nominated him dying in battle around him.

The book will be launched at the Mitchell Library, in Glasgow, at 6pm on January 29.