Kinghorn’s bravest war hero to be honoured

Alan McIlravie, Rev Jim Reid , Susan Leslie, Neil Crockett and  Keith Hay prepare for the event. Pic by FPA
Alan McIlravie, Rev Jim Reid , Susan Leslie, Neil Crockett and Keith Hay prepare for the event. Pic by FPA

Kinghorn is preparing to roll out the red carpet in a unique ceremony to honour one of its bravest sons this weekend.

On Sunday the Royal Burgh will unveil a commemorative paving stone to John McAulay, a police inspector who was the only Scottish serving policeman to receive the Victoria Cross.

Sergeant McAulay VC

Sergeant McAulay VC

The VC is the highest honour which can be awarded to a non commissioned officer, and McAulay was also the holder of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the second highest award for gallantry in action.

Born in Kinghorn on December 27, 1888 he went on to become a miner in Plean before joining the City of Glasgow Police where he eventually rose to the rank of Inspector.

Within the first few months of the outbreak of war in 1914, over 300 Glasgow police officers joined the armed services, Constable McAulay among them.

Like many of his colleagues he became a member of the Scots Guards and when his battallion was posted to France he and his comrades were thrust into some of the fiercest battles of WW1, including Ypres in July 1916 where he won his DCM.

Sergeant McAulay in 1922

Sergeant McAulay in 1922

And just 18 months later at the Battle of Cambrai on November 27, 1917, he again found himself in the thick of the action.

He and his comrades were waiting to surprise the Germans in Fontaine Notre Dame and nearby Bourlon Wood as day dawned on a bitterly cold and damp winter’s morning. The troops were waiting for tanks which were late in arriving but nonetheless they decided to advance without them along roads with banking at either side.

However the cover soon ran out and they were exposed to heavy machine gun fire. Sergeant McAulay’s company commander was hit, witnessed by the sergeant who ran out to bring him back to safety, lifting him onto his shoulders.

He was twice knocked over by bursting shells but got back up again, only to be met by two German soldiers who he killed and made it back with the dying officer in his arms.

He then assumed command of C Company, rallying the troops and bringing in a machine gun himself when theirs failed, and killing more than 50 of the enemy as they repelled the attack.

On Sunday, one day off the 100th anniversary of his heroic deeds, more than 40 of John McAulay’s relatives from as far afield as Australia and America, will congregate in Kinghorn to see his memorial stone unveiled at the war memorial.

As well at the Lord Lieutenant of Fife and council Provost Jim Leishman, there will be members of the Scots Guards Association, local councillors and community councillors.

And the Scots Guards will also make a special presentation to the people of Kinghorn.

The ceremony will start with a service in Kinghorn Parish Church at 10.30am and afterwards the Scots Guards will form a guard of honour outside and the procession will march up Harbour Road to the war memorial, led by a piper from the Scots Guards. The unveiling ceremony is expected to take place around noon and afterwards there will be a reception in the community centre for dignitaries and members of Mr McAulay’s family.