Captain, Adjutant 4th/5th Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), Mentioned in Despatches, M.C. and Bar.
Killed in Action 14th November 1917, age 22.
Buried in La Clytee Military Cemetery, Belgium.
Student of chemistry.
Talbert was born on the 3rd May 1895, to Francis & Margaret Stevenson of 10, Dudhope Terrace, Dundee. Of four children he was the only boy. He was educated at Dundee High School, gaining prizes in physics and French in 1909, and entered Oundle School (Crosby House) in September 1910 leaving in July 1912. During his time at Oundle he joined the Officer Training Corp as a private and he won the Class Firing Cup for shooting. He was a keen sportsman playing cricket for his house team, as well as football, shooting, rowing, and athletics. He again won a prize for French and also appeared in a French play performed at the school.
Talbert spent time on the Continent prior to registering for a BSc Tech degree in Applied Chemistry in the Faculty of Technology (at the Manchester School of Technology) of the Victoria University of Manchester. He entered the first year in October 1913. He became an junior member of the Society of Dyers & Colourists, no doubt with a view to joining the family firm of Stevensons the Dyers (which eventually became part of what is now Johnsons the Cleaners). Talbert continued his sporting activities and spent two seasons playing for Kersal Rugby Club. He successfully completed his first year of studies.
When War was declared on 4th, August 1914 Talbert enlisted into the 4th Battalion The Black Watch, where he was gazetted as a second lieutenant on 2nd September 1914. On the 27th September 1915 he was promoted to lieutenant and on the 27th August 1917 to captain. He received his military training at Dudhope Castle and Ferry House, Dundee, and completed a musketry course at York before joining his battalion with the British Expeditionary Force in France on the 2nd February 1915.
Talbert went into the front line on 4th March 1915, doing much good work during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, including tending to and removing wounded men from the battlefield, often while under fire. On the 9th May 1915 he himself was slightly wounded at Festubert. He appears in a painting by Joseph Gray of the battalion shortly after the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. Wounded for a second time, in the face and neck, at La Quinque Rue on the 9th June 1915, saw him require a stay in hospital. In 1916 he was offered a promotion to Major, but declined it on the grounds that it would have meant leaving his company at a crucial point in their preparations for an imminent engagement. During this action on the Battle of the Somme in November 1916 he was injured again, twice. On the 9th he sustained a leg wound from a shell explosion, but carried on leading his men for several days as they fought to take a village. On the 13th he received a number of wounds from an egg bomb and these saw him evacuated back to England where he underwent medical rehabilitation. Visitors to his bedside reported him to be very keen to get back to his unit and men. He may therefore have been frustrated to be sent to the Depot in Ripon for 3 months before rejoining the battalion on the 17th July 1917.
On 14th November 1917, near Polderhoek on the Menin Road in Belgium, Talbert was killed, possibly by a sniper, after an enemy raiding party disabled a lewis gun which enabled them to get into the British front line. His body was recovered by his men and rests in a cemetery in Belgium. At his well attended funeral pipers played ‘Flowers of the Forest’. His grave is inscribed “I pray you shed no tear”.
Talbert’s bravery and dedication to his duties did not go un-noticed and was recognised in several awards. In January 1916 he was mentioned in despatches by Field Marshall Sir John French for “gallant and distinguished service in the field and for taking German prisoners during a raid” followed 12 months later by the award of the Military Cross for “gallantry at the Somme”. In November 1917 a bar to his Military Cross was awarded posthumously for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” having shown great skill in getting his men into position for an attack, ensuring they reached their objective and then undertaking valuable reconnaissance which gained important information while under heavy machine gun and rifle fire.
The many letters of condolence received by Talbert’s parents also testify to his courage, popularity and inspirational nature. The commanding officer described him as “a magnificent fellow” and was very impressed with how well Talbert managed his Company which had great spirit, efficiency, grit and espirit de corps being deemed to be “as near perfection” as could be attained. His excellent organisational skills and untiring and conscientious efforts in all he did led to him becoming the battalion adjutant. In this role he was praised by the Colonel as “the finest specimen of a young British officer I have ever met… he has been my adjutant and I relied implicitly on him, Brave to a fault, brimming with energy and keenness, a prime favourite with officers and men, he also possessed a very old head on young shoulders. Personally I loved your boy as if he has been a son of my own and I have never been so cut up over any loss in this war.”
Posthumously Talbert was elected as an Associate to the Society of Dyers & Colourists. He was the most distinguished soldier ever to emerge from the Manchester School of Technology.