Robert Francis Pitman, known as Bert, was born at Hamilton, Victoria in 1893 to parents Richard Stagg Pitman and Elizabeth Pitman née Gallacher. He was one of 14 children. Before the war he lived in Hamilton, Victoria, working as a labourer. On 17 April 1916 he married Emily Shipham.
Pitman enlisted as a private on 1 May 1916, aged 22, in his home town of Hamilton. He joined the 14th Depot Battalion, B Company, in Ballarat and by June he was transferred to 8th Battalion, 19th reinforcements. He embarked at Melbourne on HMAT Themistocles on 28 July 1916. On board Themistocles, the soldiers put together a concert as Eat-Em-Alive Minstrels on 26 August 1916. During this concert, Private Pitman and Private Fitzgibbons performed a duet titled “So Long Letty”, written by Earl Carrol in 1915.
After arriving in England, Pitman trained at Salisbury where he won a three-mile race for which he was awarded a medal. In November 1916 he was taken on strength with the 60th Battalion. Pitman served across France and Belgium, suffering various bouts of illness, during which he was hospitalised at least five times across the course of 1917. In December of that year he was recorded as absent without leave and as a result, had to forfeit five days’ pay. For his service, Pitman was awarded the 1914-15 Star, a Victory Medal, and a British War Medal.
He returned to Australia on HMAT Karagola 1 May 1919.
After the war, he lived with his wife Emily in Hamilton, Victoria, and returned to work as a labourer as well as playing football for St. Mary’s. Robert Francis Pitman died in Hamilton in 1968 at the age of 75.