b. 03/09/1883 Glasgow, Scotland. d. 25/09/1914 Braine, France
Harry Sherwood Ranken (1883-1914) was born at 17 Carndrum Street, Glasgow, Scotland on 3rd September 1883. His father was the Reverend Henry Ranken. He was a teacher and in 1883 became Rector of George Stiell’s Institution, Tranent, Haddingtonshre, which provided free education for children. He later became Assistant at Irvine, Ayrshire in 1891, before succeeding as Minister on 29th January 1893 until his retirement in 1928. Harry’s father also served as a Chaplain in 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and later became First Class Chaplain to the Territorial Force in 1912. His mother was Helen McCormick nee Morton. His parents had married in 1882, and the family lived at The Manse, Irvine from 1893-1928. Harry had a younger brother, named Alan.
Harry was educated at Montgomery School in Irvine (later attended by Ross Tollerton VC), Irvine Royal Academy and Glasgow University’s Medical School from 1900. He gained his MB ChB in 1905. During his training he was awarded eight prizes, including three for surgery under Professor Sir William Macewen. Harry was appointed house physician and surgeon at Western Infirmary in Glasgow and later was an assistant medical officer at Brook Fever Hospital in London.
Harry was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps on 30th January 1909, gaining top place in the entrance examination. He became a Freemason on 31st January 1910 and was a member of the Mother Kilwinning Lodge No 0. Harry wrote several articles for the British Medical Journal and the RAMC Journal. He was awarded the Tulloch Medal for Military Medicine, the de Chaumont Prize for Hygiene and the Tropical Medicine Prize for his work on sleeping sickness. He was seconded to the Egyptian Army from August 1911 for service with the Sudan Government Sleeping Sickness Commission as Commandant of the Sleeping Sickness Camp at Yei in the Lado enclave. He was promoted to Captain in 1912.
When war broke out in 1914, Harry was on leave and immediately volunteered for active service, being attached to the 1st KRRC. He was officially transferred back to the Home establishment from the Egyptian Army on 8th August 1914. He arrived in France five days later. For his actions during the retreat from Mons between 21st and 30th August 1914, he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur (gazetted on 3rd November 1914).
On 19th and 20th September 1914 at Haute-Avesnes, France, Captain Ranken was severely wounded in the leg whilst attending to his duties on the battlefield under shrapnel and rifle fire. He arrested the bleeding from this and bound it up, then continued to dress the wounds of his men, sacrificing his own chance of survival to their needs. When he finally permitted himself to be carried to the rear his case had become almost desperate and he died on 25th September at the No 5 Clearing Station at Braine. He was buried in the Braine Communal Cemetery.
Harry never married and his VC was presented to his father by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 29th November 1916. In addition to his VC, and Legion d’Honneur, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf. His medals are held by the Museum of Military Medicine, Keogh Barracks, Mytchett, Surrey. The Museum will be moving to Cardiff in the next few years.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: MUSEUM OF MILITARY MEDICINE, KEOGH BARRACKS, ALDERSHOT.
BURIAL PLACE: BRAINE COMMUNAL CEMETERY, BRAINE, FRANCE.
ROW A, GRAVE 43
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Thomas Stewart – Images of the Ranken VC Medal Group and Death Penny at the RAMC Museum.