Hum­ble war hero John is hon­oured by home town

Vic­to­ria Cross stone ded­i­cated to sol­dier for his acts of brav­ery

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Edel Ke­nealy

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

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