New honour for Kirkintilloch VC soldier

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A Kirkintilloch soldier born on this day in 1898 is to be honoured with a plaque at the railway station where he worked - almost a century after he died in a suicidal lone attack on a German machine gun post.

Sergeant John Meikle VC, who lied about his age to join the army, was still only 19 when he staged the first of two one man assaults against a German position which had pinned down his company of the 4th battalion, Seaforth Highlanders.

He was armed only with a pistol and a dagger when, as his Victoria Cross citation relates: “He emptied his revolver into the crews of the two guns and put the remainder out of action with a heavy stick”.

He then tried to repeat the exploit against a second machine gun position - but was cut down a few yards from his target.

Meikle was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his fanatical bravery at the Second Battle of the Marne on July 20, 1918, and will be honoured by East Dunbartonshire Council with a paving stone inscription on the centenary of the day he died.

However until now the soldier, born at 34 Freelance Place, has not been honoured in Glasgow, where he worked as a railwayman at Nitshill station.

But in a new development a memorial at Nitshill Station is being funded by the Railway Heritage Trust.

The ceremony on October 18 is due to be attended by Meikle’s nephews, John and Alan.

An account of the belated honour in The Scotsman newspaper relates: “Born in Kirkintilloch as the fifth of 12 children, Meikle became a station clerk at Nitshill for the Glasgow, Barrhead and Kilmarnock Railway after leaving school.

“He was knocked back from his first attempt to enlist as a teenager, and reportedly asked his mother to cook him porridge to make him larger and stronger”.

During the war years leading up to his death at Marfaux in 1918 he fought at the Somme, was wounded, awarded the Military medal, and promoted from the ranks.

His use of a stick as a weapon is not explained - officers carried “swagger sticks” as a token of rank, but they were rarely carried in action.

Yet Meikle managed to kill or incapacitate two machine gun crews - normally eight men - with this and a normal service revolver, after somehow surviving a 150-yard dash under a hail of lead.

In 2014 East Dunbartonshire council leader Rhonda Geekie said of the local man: ““It is difficult to imagine the full horror Sgt Meikle and those of his generation, on both sides, would have faced on the battlefield.

“Those that knew him paid him many moving tributes following his death and wrote of his beautiful character and wonderful personality and his loss would have been deeply felt by his family and friends.

“It is only right that Sgt. Meikle’s bravery and selfless sacrifice is recognised in his home town and the council hopes the memorial paving stone will be a fitting and lasting tribute to him.”