John McCabe GC (EGM exchanger)

b. 18/07/1896 Irvine, Scotland.  d. 02/04/1940 Irvine, Scotland.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 02/04/1940 Irvine, Scotland.

John McCabe (1897-1940) was born on 18th July 1896 in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland, the only son of John and Margaret McCabe (nee McGrath). His father’s occupation at the time of his birth was described as “hammerman”, which presumably was a shipyard job, as in later life he became a shipyard foreman. John junior had a sister, Margaret, and like her brother, they were both unmarried throughout their lives.

John McCabe GC

As a young man, John was heavily involved with the Scottish Junior Football League Club, Meadow XI, then became their trainer. John was also involved in founding the Irvine Carpet Bowling League. Little else is known about him except for the incident which saw him awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal and also cost him his life.

John’s working life saw him become an Assistant Foreman at the Royal Ordnance Factory in Irvine. On 2nd April 1940, there was an explosion at the factory followed by a fire. McCabe attempted to empty the contents of the vessel to a drowning pit, but by this time the fire had spread to other vessels; after warning their men to escape, McCabe, Thomas Asquith and Hugh McLelland tried to use the appliance that worked from outside the building to empty all the vessels inside. McCabe himself worked the same appliance from within the building. In doing so, he was killed by an explosion. Asquith was awarded the MBE and McLelland the BEM.

John was buried in Shewalton Cemetery in Irvine. His posthumous EGM was announced on 31st May 1940, and he was just one of four posthumous EGMs who was eligible to exchange for the new George Cross, created in September 1940. His EGM had been presented to his sister Margaret on 2nd July 1940 at Buckingham Palace. His GC is privately held.