World War One Remembered: Robert Steele

Posted: 07/08/2014 | Scottish War Blinded

Private Robert (Bob) Steele experienced blindness and respiratory problems following a mustard gas attack in 1918 later accessing Scottish War Blinded services.

In May 1918, Bob deployed to the Western front where the regiment were present at the Battles of Ypres and Flanders. It is believed that his company were attacked whilst defending a sector at Ypres; the Germans fired mustard gas shells on the allied line leaving only Bob and one other comrade alive. He sustained internal and external blisters, respiratory complications and blindness. Fortunately, Bob regained some vision and was able to continue in service.

He returned to Ayrshire in late 1918 to marry Amy Mona Dalziel from Catrine who was working in a munitions factory at Clydebank. Being a serving member of the armed forces, he was entitled to the privilege of his wedding banns announced on the steps of the church three times in one day instead of having to wait a period of three weeks for objections.

Bob found work driving a horse and cart shifting coal in the years following World War One later working on the Ayrshire railways. It was working on the railways that he disturbed the existing damage to his eyes from the war reducing his vision considerably. He then worked as a grave digger and lost complete vision following another accident.

He received support from Scottish War Blinded in terms of aftercare workers visiting him at home and providing a wide range of audio books he enjoyed listening using his machine by the bed. He liked Westerns or Mysteries but would never listen to anything about the war.

Bob died a few days short of his 82nd birthday on 18th April 1974.