b. 29/07/1885 Riddrie, Glasgow, Scotland. d. 26/07/1941 Riddrie, Glasgow, Scotland.
Henry May (1885-1941) was born at 246 Nuneaton Street, Bridgeton, Glasgow, Scotland on 29th July 1885. His father was William Henry May who was born in Ireland. He was working as a general labourer in 1881 and as a city cleansing carter at the time of Henry’s birth. Henry’s mother was Margaret (Maggie) nee Fyfe, a paper mill finisher, who was born in Madras, India, the daughter of a Royal Artillery sergeant. They had married on Boxing Day 1879 in Glasgow. Henry had three brothers and two sisters and was educated at Dalmarnock Public School, Bridgeton and the Royal Technical College Glasgow (now the University of Strathclyde).
He was employed as an apprentice mechanic at J Brown & Sons weaving factory on Adelphi Street from 1899. He enlisted on 29th August 1902, giving his age as 18, his employment as labourer and declaring previous service in 4th Volunteer Battalion Scottish Rifles. He joined 1st Provisional Battalion in Chatham next day. He was promoted to Lance-Corporal in January 1903 and posted to 1st Battalion later that month. Sadly, due to misconduct he was reduced to Private a month later, and served in South Africa
Having transferred to the Reserve on 31st January 1905, he returned to J Brown & Sons and from 1907 he was a power loom mechanic. He married Christina nee Dewar on 5th June 1908 at Chalmers Street Hall, Glasgow. They had three children – Agnes (Nessie) born on 24th April 1909, Henry (born on 1st March 1911; died in 1931); and Margaret born on 12th January 1914. He was employed by Forest Frew Co Ltd from 1912, as a tenter in their Rutherglen Bridge factory.
Henry was recalled from the Reserve on 5th August 1914 and arrived in France on 15th August. On 22nd October 1914, near La Boutillerie, France, he voluntarily endeavoured to rescue, under very heavy fire, a wounded man, who was killed before he could save him, and subsequently, on the same day, in carrying a wounded Officer a distance of 300 yards into safety whilst exposed to very severe fire.
Henry was wounded in the face by shrapnel at Ypres on 2nd November 1914, and was evacuated to Britain, returning to France in January 1915. His VC was gazetted on 19th April 1915. When he was sent on leave in July 1915, he was met at Glasgow Central Station by representatives of the Lord Provost. He attended a civic reception in his honour on 4th August, and was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 12th August. He was discharged on 28th August at the end of 13 years of service.
He was then reputedly employed as an inspector in a munitions factory, but he re-enlisted on 27th October 1917 in the Army Service Corps (Motor Transport). He attended officer training at No 1 Company, ASC Cadet School, and was commissioned into the ASC on 4th March 1918 and posted to Grove Park MT Depot. He was then posted to Sydenham on 10th February 1919. He then served in North Russia from 29th March 1919, before a bout of rubella forced him home in November 1919. He was promoted to Lieutenant.
Following the war, he joined the Glasgow Manufacturing Company (a hosiery firm) and later became a partner. He attended the VC Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on 26th June 1920, and was a freemason (Lodge of Glasgow No 441). He died at the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow on 26th July 1941 and was buried in Riddrie Park Cemetery. Four VCs attended his funeral – John McAulay, Robert Downie, David Lauder and Walter Ritchie. His headstone did not have his name on, until a new headstone was dedicated in 2006.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and George VI Coronation Medal of 1937. His medals are held by the Cameronians Museum, Hamilton, Lanarkshire having been purchased by the Ogilby Trust on behalf of the Regiment for £18,250 by Wallis and Wallis in June 1994.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CAMERONIANS MUSEUM, HAMILTON, SCOTLAND.
BURIAL PLACE: RIDDRIE PARK CEMETERY, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND. SECTION B, LAIR 146.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the May VC Medal Group at the Cameronians Museum, Hamilton, Scotland.