Robert Sterling was born in Glasgow and educated at Sedbergh School and Pembroke College, Oxford. In 1914 he won the Newdigate Prize with his poem ‘The Burial of Sophocles.’ On the outbreak of war he applied for and received a commission in the Royal Scots Fusiliers and spent the remainder of the year training in Scotland before departing for France in February 1915. The Battalion was in and out of trenches at St. Eloi in Ypres. A few weeks later a close friend arrived unexpectedly at Sterling’s billet

I walked about with him for about an hour and a half in the chateau grounds, stray bullets from the firing-line whistling around us, … but I had no idea I was afterwards going to treasure every incident as a precious memory all my life.

Ten days later, on 13th March, his friend was killed. Sterling wrote

I think I should go mad if I didn’t still cherish some faith in the justice of things, and a vague but confident belief that death cannot end great friendships.

At the beginning of April 1915, Sterling was sent to hospital at Ypres suffering from influenza: the hospital was shelled and he was sent on to Le Treport. Rejoining his battalion, Sterling took part in the Second Battle of Ypres which began on 14th April 1915; he was killed by a grenade on 23rd April 1915. In his History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, John Buchan wrote

Second Lieutenant R.W. Sterling, a young officer of notable promise, fell, after holding a length of trench all day with 15 men.

A collection of Sterling’s poems was printed by Oxford University Press in February, 1916

Robert Sterling’s Poems

Resources for Robert Sterling

Collected Poems available from Internet Archive

Sterling’s obituary in The Sedberghian