"It was that red hair, that straight-up cockiness. You knew he was going places."
This is how one of "RB" Cameron's generals described him. After Royal Military College, Robert Burns Cameron joined the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) in 1939. In 1941 he went overseas, was attached to the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, and landed in Italy in November of 1943.
Rising quickly to the rank of Major, RB was awarded the DSO for leadership and relentlessness in guiding his engineers across the Foglia River and through minefields under heavy fire to clear the path for advancing infantry during the Allied offensive on the Gothic Line. RB later had a distinguished business career and has been called Nova Scotia's greatest industrialist, soldier and public servant."
Robert Burns Cameron was born in New Glasgow, N.S. on July 28, 1919. After high school he went to the Royal Military College at Kingston, Ontario, and graduated just as the war began. He went overseas as Lieutenant Cameron, was promoted to Captain and by the end of the campaign in Italy was a Major Commanding Officer 1 Canadian Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers with the 5th Canadian Armoured Division.
Major Cameron was involved in the Allied attack on the Gothic Line in August 1944 for which he was noted for his contribution. Major Cameron's citation reads as follows:
"During the assault on the Gothic Line on the night 29 August 1944, 1 Canadian Field Squadron, commanded by Major Cameron was in charge of 11 Canadian Infantry Brigade. The attack was ordered some 48 hours in advance of the original plan. Major Cameron immediately ordered his troops forward to cross the Foglia River and the anti-tank ditch and to gap the minefield.
He then proceeded to the sites himself and for the next two hours, under heavy fire of all types and traveling over fields known to be mined, moved from site to site, encouraging his men and urging them forward. On one occasion when it became necessary to move the Irish Regiment of Canada from left to right front, Major Cameron personally reconnoitered a route along the river bed himself. By his determination and bravery, he set an outstanding example for his men and succeeded in establishing two routes into the Gothic Line which were absolutely vital to the divisional Plan."
Major Cameron did not allow mention of what happened that day in the unit diary. It was just another day... "Quiet day. Fair and warm." Major Cameron was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for this effort, a rare honour, which was personally given to him by King George VI.
While serving overseas Major Cameron met nursing sister, Florence Campbell and they married in England in 1943.
Back in Canada Mr. Cameron left the army and started his own business in construction, including Maritime Steel and Foundries. He also owned a string of small-town newspapers, Cameron Publication. Mr. Cameron served as a director of the Royal Bank and sat on the boards of other Canadian companies.
In the late 1960's the Nova Scotia government made him the first president of Sydney Steel. He remained in the public eye through the 1970's as head of other Crown corporations. In addition he served as director of the Cape Breton Development Corporation and was a governor of Dalhousie University. In 1970 he was awarded the Medal of Service, Order of Canada.
Mr. Cameron and his wife Florence had five sons, three daughters, and 15 grandchildren. They were well known for their philanthropy, supporting many regional hospitals and local educational institutions.
Robert Burns Cameron died in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia at the age of 80 on February 17, 2000.