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This article appeared on my work Intranet but well worthy of wider circulation. The tale of a mjohn-mcaulay-vciners son who joined Glasgow City Police and won the Victoria Cross in WW1.

John McAulay joined Glasgow Police in 1911 as a probationary constable. He was posted to Northern Division in March that year and was a champion wrestler in police sporting competitions.

Within a month of the out break of war John had resigned for the police service and volunteered, being posted to the Scots Guards and seeing action across France.

 

By the end of 1915 John’s bravery had seen him promoted three times in one day, from corporal to acting sergeant. He was officially recognised for his bravery in September 1917 for his actions during the battle of Ypres (which took place in December 1916) being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

John McAulay VC

Sgt John McAulay VC Glasgow Police

During the battle had taken command of his platoon after his officer had been killed, cleared two strongly-held dugouts and “accounted for several snipers”. McAulay had been recommended for the DCM four times already and an officer said to him: “You ought to have got it ages ago”.

On 27 November, 1917, at Fontaine, Notre Dame McAulay’s platoon was pinned down on a sunken road by German machine gunfire. When his commander, Lieutenant A Kinnaird, was wounded, McAulay lifted him on to his back and carried him to safety amid shells bursting around him.

Still carrying the officer, he rallied the men, placed Kinnaird in a shelter and seized a machine gun. He set it up in the road and, as the Germans came over the ridge, completely stopped their attack. He then carried Kinnaird another 500 yards through “a tornado of bullets, killing two Germans who tried to intercept him”.

Though escaping without a scratch, he is said to have “accounted for 50 of the enemy by himself”.

An Aberdeen journalist in the trenches recorded how McAulay learned of his award of the VC in January 1918: “A modest man… he was deafened by the cheers… fellow sergeants almost shook his arm off…the VC was mounted shoulder-high and headed by the piper, marched round and round.” McAulay returned home in February 1918 and was decorated by King George V on 16 March. He re-joined the police in January 1919 and was promoted to sergeant in June that year.

McAulay laid a wreath at the Glasgow Police War Memorial ceremony in 1921, commemorating 173 city police officers who had died. He became an inspector in 1922 and retired in 1946 after 34 years’ service.

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I wrote this article a wee while back and it features on the now  defunct Lothian and Borders Police website so I thought it would be nice to preserve it.

It’s a tale right out off John Buchan’s 39 Steps, Buchan’s hero was Hannay, Edinburgh City Police had Merrielees.

Willie Merrilees disguised as a railway porter

Willie Merrilees disguised as a railway porter

On 30th September, 1940, a telephone message was received from Lieutenant Mair of the Scottish Regional Security Office to the affect that a man and a woman, believed to be German agents, had been put ashore off the Buckie coast that day. They had been arrested and were than on their way to London under armed escort.

When arrested, they had various items in their possession including a wireless set, £390 of money, National Registration Cards and sidearms.

A dinghy, (below) which would hold four people, was found on the beach nearby . The message also stated that a man, who could not be described, but wearing a wet coat, left by train via Aberdeen, due in Edinburgh (Waverley) at 4.30p.m. and that he may also have be an enemy agent.

He was carrying two heavy suitcases and  was thought to be armed.  The message further asked that immediate enquiry be made at all likely places for this man.

All railway stations and other likely places were checked, and a message circulated throughout the surrounding districts.  About 6p.m. a case was traced in the Left Luggage Office in the East End, Waverley Station. The case was damp and had sand sticking to it.

The Porter who had attended to the owner of this case said that he had come off the Aberdeen train, spoke with a foreign accent, and that he stated he would return about 9p.m. to uplift the case.

Dinghy used by spies

Dinghy used by spies

The case was searched by C.I.D. officers and  found to contain a complete transmitting set and articles of clothing.

The Porter who had attended to the owner of this case said that he had come off the Aberdeen train, spoke with a foreign accent, and that he stated he would return about 9p.m. to uplift the case. The case was searched by Officers of the C.I.D. and was found to contain a complete transmitting set and articles of clothing.

A watch was kept therefore on the Left Luggage Office.  The Detective Superintendent, William Merrielees, borrowed a porter’s uniform, this enabled him to remain close to the counter where the luggage was uplifted.

At 8.58 p.m. Walti was seen coming from the Waverley Steps and continued to the Bookstall, some 20 yards from the Left Luggage Office.  He stood there for several minutes, keeping observation on the Office, and when he saw the same porter who had attended to him personally, he walked towards the Office.

The porter asked him if he wanted his case, and Walti said that he did. At which point Detective Superintendent Merrielees, the Detective Lieutenant and other Officers of the C.I.D arrested him.

Walti made an effort to resist, but was overpowered whilst in the act of trying to put his hand into his left-hand trouser pocket. He was searched, and a Mauser automatic pistol  was found in his possession.

Pistol Walti attempted to use.

Pistol Walti attempted to use.

Immediately after his arrest ,Walti stated “I am not a German, I am Swiss”.

Werner Walti and Karl Drucke were executed at Wandsworth Prison on August 6th 1941. Mystery shrouds the fate of their co-accused Vera Eriksen, she did not appear for trial and no explanation was ever given of her whereabouts. She was jailed until the end of the war, when she was repatriated to Germany where she disappeared without trace.

Willie Merrilees went on to become the Chief Constable of Lothian and Peebles Constabulary from 1950 to 1968, one of the longest serving Chief Constables in the Scottish Police.

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