b. 17/09/1892 Calcutta, India. d. 06/12/1980 Edinburgh, Scotland.
John Reginald Noble Graham (1892-1980) was born at 1 Alipore Lane, Calcutta, India on 17th September 1892, the eldest of three sons of Sir John Frederick Noble Graham, 2nd Baronet of Larbert and Dunipace in the County of Stirling and an East India merchant, and his wife, Irene Maud (nee Campbell). “Reggie” as he was known, was educated at Cheam School, Eton, and Trinity College, Cambridge, and steered the Trial Eights boat race at Eton (1910) and Cambridge (1911).
The young man joined the 9th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Dumbarton Castle on 15th January 1915 as a Second Lieutenant and was seconded to the Machine Gun Corps on 22nd June 1916. He was soon promoted to Captain on 13th July. After serving with the 9th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at home for nearly two years, he set off for Mesopotamia in September 1916 and remained there until 22nd April 1917. He was in command of a section of the 136th Machine Gun Company, which was operating with the 56th Rifles (Frontier Force), Indian Army.
On 22nd April 1917 at Istabulat, Mesopotamia, Lieutenant Graham was in command of a machine-gun section which came under very heavy fire. When his men became casualties he insisted on carrying the ammunition and although twice wounded, he continued in control and with one gun opened accurate fire on the enemy. This gun was put out of action and he was again wounded and forced to retire, but before doing so he disabled his gun and then brought a Lewis gun into action with excellent effect until all the ammunition was expended. He was wounded yet again and was again forced to retire.
He was invested with the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 13th December 1918, a few weeks after the end of the Armistice. On his return home to Cardross, he was met at the railway station by a large crowd and was immediately “chaired” to a waiting car to take him to an official welcome. On 11th January 1919 he ceased to be a member of the Machine Gun Corps and his name was listed on a Reserve of Officers on 23rd November 1921. He relinquished his commission on 30th September 1921, but retained the rank of Major. On 22nd April 1922 he received a commission in the Calcutta Light Horse.
Between the war, he joined the family business of William Graham & Co, East India merchants in Calcutta. In November 1920, he married Rachel Septima, daughter of Colonel Sir Alexander Sprott, Baronet, CMG, in Bombay and the couple had two children: Lesley, born in 1921, and John, born in 1926. On 10th May 1925 he was one of four holders of the VC who attended the unveiling of the Machine Gun Corps Memorial in London by the Duke of Connaught. The other VCs present with Allan Ker VC, William White VC and Horace Mugford VC. In 1936, he succeeded to the baronetcy of his father on his death on 25th November. His family motto was “Forget not”.
On the outbreak of World War II, he received a temporary commission in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel he served on the War Office staff, Essex Division and Scottish Command 1942-1946, and his final appointment was A/Q Movement HQ. He was made an OBE in 1946 for his service.
In the late 1950s, he was made Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod to the Most Noble Order of the Thistle, a position he held until 1979. One of his duties was to escort the Queen to the Order’s annual service held at St Giles Cathedral. He was keen on outdoor pursuits such as shooting and fishing, and like to paint. He lived in Edinburgh in later life, and died following an operation on 6th December 1980. He was cremated at Morton Hall Crematorium, and his ashes were buried at the foot of a large memorial cross in the grounds of the crematorium.
In addition to his VC and OBE, he was also awarded the British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977. His medals are held and displayed by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, Stirling Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ARGYLL/SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS, STIRLING.
BURIAL PLACE: MORTONHALL CREMATORIUM, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND.
Andy Wright – Image of the Graham VC group at the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, Stirling, Scotland.