b. 11/09/1898 Kirkintilloch, Scotland. d. 20/07/1918 Marfaux, France.
John Meikle (1898-1918) was born on 11th September 1898 at Freeland Place, Kirkintilloch, Scotland to John Meikle senior and his second wife Jane Hollywood. John’s first wife died after giving birth to a daughter who survived. John jnr was the fifth of 12 children born to the Meikles. Four of their children died in infancy and only three of their children lived beyond the age of 30. The family moved to Nitshill, when John Meikle senior’s employer Perry & Hope’s Forth and Clyde Chemical Works moved its factory to the area in 1900-01.
He attended Levern Public School and Pollokshaws Primitive Methodist Chapel. He supported Levern Victoria Football Club and also played for juvenile side Nitshill Royal Victoria. When he left school, Meikle became a clerk at Nitshill Station for the Glasgow, Barrhead and Kilmarnock Joint Railway. Like so many young men at the start of the war, Meikle was motivated by patriotism to “do his bit” for his country. He attempted to enlist after war broke out in 1914 but was rejected due to his youthful appearance and small stature.
Eventually he was accepted by the Seaforth Highlanders on 8th February 1915 at Maryhill Barracks. He lied about his age saying he was 18, when in fact he was 16 years and five months old. But even at his pretend age of 18, he had to wait a further year to go to France, as a soldier had to be 19 to fight overseas.
Meikle’s personal military service record, along with many others, was destroyed in an air raid during the Second World War. But it is known that on July 30th, 1916, Meikle, who had by now trained as a Lewis (machine-) gunner, was sent to France. He was transferred to the 1/4th Seaforth (Ross Highland) Battalion, fighting in the Battle of the Somme and subsequently rising quickly through the ranks.
He was injured in the 3rd Battle of Ypres in 1917, during which he was awarded the Military Medal for his actions near Langemarck. He was sent home to Glasgow to recover from his injuries. While in Nitshill in November 1917, he was presented with a gold watch on behalf of his fellow villagers in the local public hall. The watch engraved with his initials remains a treasured family heirloom. When Meikle returned to France, he had been promoted to sergeant.
The Second Battle of the Marne was the turning point for the Allies in the War, and became known as the last great German offensive. By 20th July 1918, Meikle and his unit (No 2 Company, 4th Battalion), were with the 51st Highland Division in the French Aisne-Marne Sector, and would defend the Ardre Valley. Sergeant Meikle, single-handed and armed only with a revolver and a stick, rushed and put out of action a machine-gun which was delaying his company’s advance. Shortly afterwards, seizing a rifle and bayonet from a fallen comrade, he charged another machine-gun post, but was killed almost on the gun position. His bravery enabled two other men who followed him to put this gun out of action.
Meikle’s comrade, Company Sergeant Major G W Sturrah, (who was only 23 years old himself), in a letter to Meikle’s mother Annie, wrote: “It is with the deepest regret that I write to you to inform you of your dear son 200854 Sgt Meikle, J, of his death, (killed in action) on the 20th July. We were on this day attacking a strong enemy position, and your dear lad behaved as gallantly as ever Britisher did. He single handed knocked out an enemy machine gun post and its crew. Knocking out with a walking stick he always used to carry and was afterwards rushing another similar post when he was killed by Machine Gun fire. His death was instantaneous.”
Meikle was buried in Marfaux British Cemetery, France. After his death, his mother Annie donated accumulated funds from her son’s VC pension and soldiers pay to two local churches. The family did not attend the official presentation of John’s VC at Buckingham Palace, as they were unable to afford the associated expense of new clothes and accommodation in London. Instead they chose to receive the decoration during a local parade at Maryhill Barracks on 28th October 1918. His medals including the VC, MM, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 are held by the Dingwall Museum, Dingwall, Scotland.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: DINGWALL MUSEUM, DINGWALL, SCOTLAND.
BURIAL PLACE: MARFAUX BRITISH CEMETERY, MARFAUX, FRANCE.
PLOT VIII, ROW C, GRAVE 1
Kevin Brazier – Grave Photograph and Cemetery Map.
Thomas Stewart – Images of the Meikle VC Medal Group at Dingwall Museum, the Meikle VC Memorial at Nitshill Train Station, and his VC Stone.