b. 27/12/1888 Kinghorn, Scotland. d. 14/01/1956 Glasgow, Scotland.
John McAulay was born on the 27th December 1888, in Kinghorn, Fife, located on the north shore of the Firth of Forth, opposite Edinburgh. His parents were John and Isabella McAulay, and it seems the family moved to 4, Gillespie Terrace, Plean, Stirlinghsire, where the young McAulay was educated in the local school. A powerfully built individual he found work as a miner until the 27th February 1911, when he decided to join the Northern Police Force, based in Glasgow. He remained in the force until the 9th September 1914, when he enlisted in the Scots Guards and before the end of the year had been promoted to Lance Corporal.
There is little source information about his early service except that in 1915, he was promoted to Corporal and in 1916, he was made a Lance Sergeant and later Sergeant and had been Mentioned in Despatches in 1916. On the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres, he was awarded a DCM for clearing pillboxes, accounting for several snipers single-handedly and taking charge of his platoon when his officer had been killed. He 28 years old when the following deed took place at the Battle of Cambrai for which he was awarded the VC.
On 27th November 1917 at Fontaine Notre Dame, France, when all his officers had become casualties, McAulay assumed command of the company and under shell and machine-gun fire successfully held and consolidated the objectives gained. He reorganised the company and noticing a counter-attack developing, repulsed it by the skilful and bold use of machine-guns, causing heavy enemy casualties. The sergeant also carried his company commander, who was mortally wounded, to a place of safety.
On the 13th January 1918, McAulay was presented with the ribbon for the VC by his Divisional Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Victor McKenzie, and two months later he was at Buckingham Palace to receive his VC from the King on the 13th March. He returned home to Glasgow during his leave and married Catherine Thomson, on the 23rd April 1918. It would appear that at some point he visited the Scots Guards Regimental Headquarters at Wellington Barracks, where he was presented with a silver cigarette case by Major the Earl of Stair, on behalf of the Sergeants Mess at the barracks.
After the war he was demobilised and resumed his career in the Glasgow Police, on the 13th January 1919, and the following year was promoted to Sergeant and posted to “H” (Maryhill) Division, and then a short time later to “D” (Southern) Division. In June 1920, he was present at the VC Garden Party held at Buckingham Palace, and on the 11th November 1921, he was present at the unveiling and laid a wreath, in Glasgow Cathedral’s crypt, of a bronze plaque to those members of the Glasgow Police Force, who had laid down their lives during the Great War. The ceremony was followed by a parade through the streets to the force headquarters in Turnbull Street, where a duplicate plaque was unveiled.
McAulay studied for and passed his Inspectors examination and was promoted to the rank of Inspector on the 27th September 1922, and moved to “A” (Central) Division. In 1929, he attended the VC Dinner hosted by the Prince of Wales in the House of Lords, and in 1935 he was awarded the King’s Silver Jubilee Medal. Two years later he received a Coronation Medal.
In 1941, he was one of four VCs that attended the funeral of Lieutenant Henry May VC, who had been awarded his VC whilst a Private in the 1st Bn., Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in 1914. McAulay retired from the police on the 31st January 1946, and in June of the same year he was in London for the Victory Parade and the VC Dinner held at The Dorchester on the evening. Later on in the same month, when the King and Queen were in Scotland attending a 25th Anniversary parade for the British Legion, he was one of the people presented to the royal couple.
McAulay passed away at his home in 915, Aikenhead Road, Burnside, Glasgow, on the 14th January 1956, when he was 67 years old, and he is buried in Glasgow New Eastwood Cemetery, Section L-VII, Lair 139. His wife survived him by seven years and passed away in 1963, and the following year McAulay’s sister, Isabella, presented her late brothers medals to the Guards Regimental Headquarters (Scots Guards RHQ), London., where they are still held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SCOTS GUARDS RHQ, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: NEW EASTWOOD CEMETERY, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND.
SECTION L – VII, LAIR 139.
Thomas Stewart – Images of the McAulay VC Grave and the two images of McAulay’s medal group at the Guards Museum, London, and the Glasgow Police Museum.