FIRST CITY V.C. OF LAST WAR
Mr. Henry May who set the Empire talking by his heroic rescue of two comrades under devastating fire
Mr. Henry May of 903 Cumbernauld road, Riddrie, who was the first Glasgow soldier to win the Victoria Cross in the last war died in a city infirmary last Saturday, the day before his 56th birthday.
His funeral to Riddrie Cemetery, on Tuesday afternoon was one of the largest seen in the East End for some time. It was attended by, among others, his old Commanding Officer in the Cameronians, Colonel C. E. Vandaleur and four fellow V.C.s, Inspector John McAuly-, Glasgow Police, R. Downie,- Dublin Fusiliers. D.R. Lauder,- Royal Scots Fusiliers, and W. Ritchie of the Seaforth Highlanders.
Partner in a Bridgeton firm, The Glasgow Manufacturing Company Ltd. Mr. May leaves his wife, a son, and three daughters to mourn him.
Mr. May was born and educated in Bridgeton and was an Army reservist before the Great War was declared. Here is a fully detailed account of the heroic deed which set the whole of the British Empire talking about that Bridgeton boy, Henry May who has won the Victoria Cross.
The Twenty second Day of October, 1914, was a critical day all along the British front. What remained of “French’s contemptible little army “ to quote the Kaiser, had been having a terrible time. The German hordes were still pouring into the war zone in their hundreds of thousands. Paris or Calais-it mattered little.
Annihilating the B.E.F.
Three days before the Allies line of trenches had linked up with the seaboard in the West, after an ever fluctuating succession of flanking and counter – movements all aiming at, on the part of the Germans, the annihilation of the British Expeditionary Force, and on the part of the Allies, the rounding up and encircling of the right-wing of the Huns.
About a week before October 22, 1914 the first batch of the overseas troops from Canada arrived in this country. Apart from the arrival of the Indian Army this was the first batch that our great oversea Dominions sent to succour the Mother Country.
Take Paris or Die
The order of the Kaiser still held good “Take Paris or die” And up till now our enemies had not anticipated much serious or lasting opposition on their Eastern front. Earl Haig commanding the British forces stationed between Langemark and Bixschoote, had felt it necessary to send urgent aid to the 7th Division to help maintain the line of defence. With the addition of these reinforcements our troops poured deadly volleys into the almost unstoppable onrushing ranks of Hun infantrymen, who came in waves of paralysing frenzy, bitterly hating the foe that now opposed their onward march.
To them it was unthinkable that so small an Army as the original Expeditionary Force should challenge their right of way on October 22 1914. But as the day wore on the enemys ferocity increased, and his attacks grew more vigorous. What a trying time for the brave Camaronians holding on so gamely against unmentionable odds.
Grimmest of the Grim
Good lads fell wounded at every fresh salvo of the guns. Neither side neither sought nor offered quarter. The Germans, the personification of malice and hate, went forward gladly to sacrifice even life itself so that their comrades in reserve might goose –step triumphantly over the ground our boys so stoutly contested. Machine- gun fighting was at its height. With our admitted inferiority in this arm of warfare, the ground between the opposing forces was less dangerous to the enemy than to our boys in Khaki.
The brunt of the fighting fell to the 1st Cameronians, or as they were better known “the Scottish Rifles”, a regiment whose battle-cry has been heard in all parts of the world. Lieut. Graham was a general favourite with his men. Not one of them but would have given his life for this Glasgow gentleman.
One of the Cameronians had been wounded in the open, and seeing the plight of a helpless comrade lying defenceless in a hail-swept region, Private May left his comparative safety and bolted out to rescue the injured comrade. The fire from the opposing machine-guns was simply devastating.
It seems impossible that any human being could live in the bullet laden atmosphere. It was the million to one chance that Private May accepted that day and it came up for him. Lance Corpl, Lawton, the wounded man, lay squirming in pain. Fifty yards only separated May from the Germans firing line. The machine guns were spitting forth their deadly patter. Private May never faltered.
Close at his heels there followed another Cameronian. The two men reached Lawton simultancously, and at that instant the enlarged target they presented brought on their heads a most unhealthy attention. Two bullets found their billet.
One reached May’s comrade- rescuer, and as the private stooped to pick up Lawton the latter was killed outright. Hundred s of bullets whizzed past May.
This story is to be continued