Humble war hero John is honoured by home town
Victoria Cross stone dedicated to soldier for his acts of bravery
A war hero who was at the heart of civic life in Cambuslang was remembered last week when a Victoria Cross stone was dedicated in his honour.
Lance Corporal John Brown Hamilton is one of two men from the town to have a commemorative VC paving stone issued in his name 100 years after a display of extraordinary bravery.
John had been issued the Victoria Cross – the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy – for his actions during the battle of Passchendaele on September 26, 1917 during World War I.
A member of the Highland Light Infantry, the then 21year old carried rounds of ammunition to fellow soldiers during enemy fire and in full view of snipers.
His actions meant the battalion was able to sustain its position on the front line north of the Ypres-Menin Road, Belgium.
To mark the 100th anniversary of his heroic actions, a service was held in Cambuslang Parish Church last Tuesday when his centenary VC stone – issued by the UK Government to the birth places of VC recipients – was blessed.
The event was organised by the Cambuslang Remembrance Garden Group and paid homage to a man who returned from war to serve as an active member of the community.
John’s grandson, Gordon Rogers, attended the service, which he described as emotional.
Stating his grandfather was a humble man, he said: “Like most Victoria Cross recipients, my grandfather didn’t have much to say about it.
“A couple of years after I first asked him I tried again. He said he went along the front line and dished out custard. I later learnt it was ammunition, but that was his humour.”
John’s Victoria Cross is displayed at the National War Museum of Scotland at Edinburgh Castle, having been delivered there by Gordon and his mother Jessie Horn Hamilton – John’s only daughter – after he died at the age of 76.
Gordon added: “He was very active in the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.
“He was told a recipient of the VC had fallen on hard times and was selling his medal. He went and got money for that guy to stop him from selling it. I reckon it was someone in the Lanarkshire area.” “He was very protective of his job within the association and was very proactive in that role.” John was born in Dumbarton on August 26, 1896 after his parents moved there for work. But the family, originally from Cambuslang, returned to the town in 1912 when his father, Thomas Hamilton, became foreman steel moulder at Hallside steelworks and John spent the remainder of his years there. He continued his active reserve service by remaining in the Territorial Army right through to WWII. Mobilised from a hospital bed at Hairmyres, gradually he was promoted through the ranks to Major, taking charge of a prisoner of war camp for captured Italian servicemen. But in Cambuslang he became equally well known for his work and hobbies away from the military. John became the first probation officer in Scotland – which then included keeping people out of prison as well as looking after them upon release – and went on to become the principle probation officer for the area.
Away from work, the budgie club and football were amongst his hobbies.
He was vice chairman of Cambuslang Rangers Football Club and as a volunteer was often seen cutting the grass, drawing lines on the pitch and watching his son Ian between the goalposts.
“He was so many things collectively,” Gordon said. “He was a man of the community.
“When I was a kid I walked from Halfway to the Main Street with him.
“Cars would pass us tooting and he would wave, everyone knew him.”
John married Mary Love Weir Maxwell in 1915 and had four children.
However, his first two sons, John and Thomas, died in 1919 and 1922 respectively.
His son Ian passed away in 1983 but his only daughter Jessie is still alive.
She will also mark a special centenary this year as she turns 100 on October 6.
Like most VC recipients my grandfather didn’t say much about it