This article appeared on my work Intranet but well worthy of wider circulation. The tale of a miners 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.
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.