Honour for heroic soldier in home town

Photograph Jamie Forbes 20.7.18 Kirkintilloch. Dedication of Victoria Cross Memorial Stone for John Meikle.
Photograph Jamie Forbes 20.7.18 Kirkintilloch. Dedication of Victoria Cross Memorial Stone for John Meikle.

A heroic soldier who received the forces’ highest award for outstanding valour has been honoured in his home town 100 years after his death.

Sergeant John Meikle was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross in July 1918 in recognition of his bravery during 
bitter fighting in France 
during the First World War.

The 19-year-old was one of just 628 people to be awarded the medal during the conflict..

A Victoria Cross commemorative paving stone recognising his heroism and sacrifice was unveiled on Friday by Provost Alan Brown at the town’s Barleybank close to John’s birthplace of Freeland Place, at a special ceremony.

It was attended by members of Sergeant Meikle’s family, Councillors, the Deputy Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire, the 4th Scots Battalion and local people

Boys’ Brigade Pipe Bands from 1st Lenzie company and 1st Chryston company also played on the day.

Provost Brown said: “It is only right Sgt Meikle’s selfless sacrifice is recognised in his home town and this memorial will ensure his name and incredible actions will live on.

“Despite his links to Kirkintilloch, this is the first memorial to him in the town and I am delighted that we were joined by members of his family as we paid tribute to him exactly 100 years after his death.”

More than 30 of Sergeant Meikle’s relatives, including his nephews John Meikle (75), Alan Meikle (68), James Salkeld (75) and John Salkeld (69), attended the ceremony.

John, named after his uncle, travelled through from Middlesbrough and said: “My uncle John has always been my personal hero. Although we never met, he has been with me every day of my life. His sacrifice at the age of 19, is some gift indeed, and we must never forget what he and so many others like him have given to us.”

The ceremony was presided over by the Depute Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire, Reverend Mark Johnstone of nearby St Mary’s Church.

John Meikle enlisted in February 1915, aged just 16, and was drafted into the 4th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. He had already received the Military Medal for bravery and leadership near Langmarch before returning to France and earning a promotion to sergeant.

Tragedy struck just months before the end of the war during the second Battle of the Marne. On 20 July 1918, Sgt Meikle was in the Ardre valley when he single-handedly rushed a machinegun nest which had held up his men

Later, when held up by another machinegun nest and with most of his platoon casualties, he seized a rifle and bayonet from a fallen comrade and rushed forward regardless of his own safety.

Sadly, Sgt Meikle was killed when almost in the gun position but his brave action allowed two other men behind him to put gun out of action.

An exhibition, honouring Sgt Meikle is currently on display in the lobby of William Patrick Library.