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Bridgeton's war hero          Pte.Henry May page 1 of 5

 Second Glaswegian and the first person from Glasgow's east-end and the first Glasgow resident to be awarded the VC in the 1st World War...... 22nd Oct 1914
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The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.


The Victoria Cross has been bestowed 
1,357 times since 1856. 

( at year 2013 )

VC


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Henry May   page 1

 VC Award      His Life    After the war    Comments            

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Page 2  Newspaper articles

Page 3  Family details

Page 4  Bridgeton & House of Lords

Page 5  Graveside

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His parents William & Maggie May 
married on 13th August 1879
 in Bridgeton, Glasgow. 

Henry was born 29th July 1885 at 7.00am,
                            246 Nuneaton Street,
(now demolished)
                            Bridgeton, Glasgow. 


He attended Dalmarnock Public School in Bridgeton 
and enlisted in the Army on 29th August 1902 

at the age of seventeen.       

World War I.......Story behind the VC award:
Private Henry May was a member of the 1st Battalion Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).
At daybreak on 22nd October 1914 Henry May was in a platoon under the command of Lt.D.A.H.Graham. This Platoon was acting as covering party in a ditch to hold the enemy in check while the main part of the Cameronians entrenched positions about 700 yards to the rear. This took place on the eastern side of the village of La Boutillerie, France. During this time the Germans who were only 50 yards to the front of the platoon, attacked them in force which resulted in them falling back, but not before the trench-digging to the rear was completed. 
During the fighting L/Cpl Lawton had been wounded, about a hundred yards to the right of Pte.May who quickly ran across the firing line through a hail of bullets. L/Cpl James McCall and Pte.James Bell went with Pte.May to assist. Pte.Bell took off the wounded L/Cpl Lawton's equipment but he was shot dead as Pte.May and L/Cpl.McCall tried to lift him to his feet. L/Cpl.McCall too was knocked unconscious and Pte.May then flattened himself to the ground determined to fight to the last.
At that moment he saw his platoon commander, Lt Graham fall to the ground with a bullet in his leg. Pte.May called Pte.Bell to follow and they ran over to their officer; the two men carried him step by step, zig-zagging as they stumbled on. When they had covered about 300 yards they reached a ditch where Pte.Bell was shot in the hand and foot but they managed eventually to reach safety.
Pte.May was exhausted but struggled to drag Lt.Graham a little nearer safety when Cpl.Taylor came to his assistance. Lt.Graham, who had lost a lot of blood by this time ordered the two men to return to their lines but they disobeyed him. Cpl.Taylor lifted Lt.Graham onto his shoulders but was then shot dead. Pte.May by some supreme effort, then dragged the wounded officer to the British trenches and safety. Pte May's heroism and utter disregard for the safety of his own life was in the true tradition of the holders of the Victoria Cross.       
On 2nd of November 1914, eleven days after Pte.May won his VC, he was wounded by shrapnel during the attacks on the town of Ypres. He was attended to at a base hospital before being invalided home. He was home with his family in Glasgow in time for Christmas. In mid-January 1915 he departed once more for France, and back to the bloody war..

His VC was gazetted four months later on 19th April 1915.

Photo from Daily Record and Mail, Tuesday, April 20 1915
Extract from Daily Record and Mail, April 20th 1915
Pte. Henry May ( 1st Cameronians ) who has been awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery on October 22 last year. Our photograph shows Private May, his wife and one of his three children. 
One of the 'Daily Record and Mail' representatives had the pleasing duty of conveying the glad tidings to Mrs.May. 
Naturally she was delighted that the coveted distinction had been awarded to her husband, but one thing she would have preferred even before the
Victoria Cross, as she frankly phrased it, " would be him comin' in that door as weel as when he left."
Many woman with husbands at the war will appreciate the sentiment thus expressed. Private May has his home at 38 Colvend Street, Bridgeton, Glasgow, a quiet thoroughfare in the neighbourhood of Main Street and adjacent to the bridge which connects with the Rutherglen side of the river. He has a family of three, the eldest being a sunny little lady of six summers, and the youngest, of the same sex, eighteen months.  The hero is 29 years of age, and is known in several of the factories in the East-end.
[Photgraph - Christina & Henry May with their third child Margaret,who was born 12 Jan 1914.]
( To see the full article from this 1915 newspaper click here )

 

His Life...
Henry was a reservist and was also a tenter (weaver's assistent) with Forest Frew & Company, muslin manufacturers close to Rutherglen Bridge, Bridgeton, Glasgow. As a reservist he joined the colours at the outbreak of war. After his VC was gazetted, he was told that he was entitled to return home for  a short respite. He arrived in Glasgow Central Train Station at 19.45 hours on Saturday 31st July 1915 and was met by a representative of the Lord Provost and by friends and former colleagues of Forrest Frew's mill. 
After leaving the train he was briefly carried shoulder high by the enthusiastic crowd.
On 4th August Henry was invited to a civil reception and in replying to the toast he said, "I feel proud to be present. I only did what any other soldier would  have done. Plenty of men have equalled what I did."  A week later he addressed a group of Clyde munition workers during a dinner break, telling them, "Stick to your work for the sake of our boys in the trenches."
On the 12th August he travelled to London to be presented with his VC from the king at Buckingham Palace. After the ceremony he was mobbed again by an eager crowd keen to shake him by the hand.

Henry was discharged from the Army on 28th August 1915 when his regular engagement of thirteen years had expired. He rejoined in 1918 and attained the rank of Lieutenant.


King George V gave an Afternoon Party at Buckingham Palace on the 26th June 1920 to Recipients of the Victoria Cross. His Majesty was accompanied by The Queen and Members of the Royal Family. The Victoria Cross Recipients assembled at Wellington Barracks, and marched to the Garden of the Palace via Birdcage Walk, Horse Guards Parade and The Mall preceded by the Band of the Welsh Guards. 
The King inspected the VC Recipients, who afterwards filed past His Majesty, and had the honour of being 
presented to The King and Queen.......Oor Henry was there! 
(The official list gave his rank mistakenly as Pte.May)
Extract from Daily Record and Mail, June 28th 1920
Never in the nation's history has such a spectacle been presented as was witnessed at Buckingham Place on Saturday afternoon, when 324 heroes, all decorated with the Victoria Cross - soldiers and sailors who had won the award for valour during Britain's many wars of 61 years -  were entertained by their King at a garden party at the Palace.
And Scotland was well represented in that memorable and impressive gathering. The men marched in stately files across the lawn to be received by the King and Queen. The little bronze Cross was the only passport required for this unique function. 
Each soldier and sailor was allowed to invite two relatives or friends, and in all, about a thousand persons were admitted to the grounds.             
( see newspaper article from 1920 )

 
After the war.....
After the war he joined a hosiery firm the Glasgow Manufacturing Company in which he became a partner.
Many years later he took ill in his home and died in Glasgow Royal Infirmary on 26th July 1941 just days before his 56th birthday. He left a widow, Christina and four children.
His home address then was No.903 Cumbernauld Road, Riddrie, Glasgow. 
His funeral took place at Riddrie Park Cemetary, Glasgow and was the largest seen in the East-end for a long time. The commanding officer of the Cameronians, Colonel C.B.Vandaleur attended the funeral along with four holders of the VC:
Sergeant John McAuley VC, DCM, 1st Battalion Scots Guards.
Sergeant Robert Downie VC, 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Private David Lauder VC, 4th Battalion Royal  Scots Fusiliers
Drum-Major Walter Ritchie VC, 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. 
( see newspaper article on his death from 1941 )
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Henry is buried and has a family headstone at Riddrie Park Cemetery, Glasgow, Section B. Lair 146. 

His VC is on display at the Cameronians Museum, Hamilton

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Footnote :- Henry May's former platoon commander Lt.D.A.H. Graham whose life he saved, later became a Major General winning the DSO and the MC. He eventually became Colonel of the regiment!
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WEBMAISTER : What an honour!   I am honoured that I can pay tribute to this 1st World War hero and remind the world about this Bridgeton boy in my website.
                              Over 20,000 Glaswegians were killed during World War 1, these men died in some of the bloodiest battles ever fought in the history of modern warfare.

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Page 2  Newspaper articles

Page 3  Family details

Page 4  Bridgeton & House of Lords

Page 5  Graveside

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 COMMENTS FROM MY GUESTBOOK
Extract from e-mail Dec.2002, Iain Stewart   
"A year ago I was contacted by the Secretary of the "Cameronians"  Scottish Rifles Memorial Club, who was under the impression Henry  May was buried in an unmarked grave in Riddrie Park Cemetery.   I was able to tell him that Henry May is buried in the same grave as his two children, whose names appear on the headstone, but May's does not. I have a book showing a b/w picture of the headstone which displays the word 'May' on the base. 
Note that Henry May died in 1942 and from previous research into
VC holders that died of natural causes during WWII, a number were buried in unmarked graves or had headstones that were not marked. I can only assume that owing to WW II call-up there was a severe shortage of stonemasons during the war. This could be the reason why May's name does not appear on the headstone. I've just had a look at your website and it is very pleasing that you have a site on 'old east-end of Glasgow', it makes reading it a very personal experience. I'll add your Henry May webpage to my 'Links'  page later this week"
        
WEBMASTER : Any information you need to know about the Victoria Cross can be found at Iain's website....a truly wonderful, historical archive.
Extract from e-mail Dec.2002, Ron McPhee, London, England    
"Aye Webmaster, ye have fair did the big fella proud, and to think that he went to your school, ye must have walked on the same boards as he did, a great story,  Fair brings a lump tae yer throat, I wonder if the descendants are around.......... a great bit of work!"
Extract from e-mail 26th.Dec.2002, Charlie McDonald, Glasgow, Scotland 
"Excellent bit on Henry May VC. He still has relatives living in the Parkhead area he was the great uncle of Helen Hall and Marion Hall who both went to Riverside School in the 1960's. His great nephew George Hall lives below me in Whitby Street. His gravestone is broken and we intend to get it restored and his name and Victoria Cross engraved on it sometime in the summer 2003."
Extract from e-mail 5th.Dec.2003, L/Cpl Murray, Aldershot, England 
"I was delighted to find your article on my great great grandfather Henry May who won the VC in WW1. I am currently researching his life and achievement and would also like to set up some sort of memorial to him. I am currently serving in the armed forces and have just returned from Iraq which has inspired me to research into him.
Many kind thanks, L/CPL Murray, 101 MWD SP Unit, Buller Bks, Aldershot, GU11 2DQ"
Extract from e-mail 26th.Jan.2004, Joe Carr, Cornwall, England 
 "...hope the Glesga Pals website goes on forever it has given so much joy to my sisters and myself. I hope to write to you again soon with info on Nuneaton St, Gretna St, Plaza Cinema, Springfield & Riverside schools. I was born in Gretna Street.  
Both Henry May VC and my uncle Jim from Nuneaton Street served in the Cameronians as I did from 1954-56. My uncle was killed in action 20th Oct. 1918. I have a website showing some of my army photos  it would interest those who served in the 1950's all photos were taken with my first camera."
Extract from e-mail 3rd May.2004, Annette Hall, Glasgow, Scotland  ( e-mail tba )
 "...my dads gran was Henry May's wifes sister his name is Thomas Hall his grans name was Marion Dewar I really enjoyed your website and have printed most of its pages to show the rest of our family."
Extract from guestbook 11 June 2005, Morag Catania, Toronto, Canada. aged 56  ( e-mail tba )
I was researching Harry May and the victoria cross. He was my mother's second cousin (her grandmother was Harry's aunt). She has made a family tree with names and dates, including Harry's parents, uncles, cousins and grandfather. Harry's sister Sarah married a David Lawson and they had two boys who died very young. His sister Molly married and had twins, my mother does not remember the names. Nessie married Bob Greene (my mother spelled it with an e) and they had a daughter, Heather. My mother's name is Sarah May Douglas, nee Anderson.

Extract from e-mail 22nd Sept 2014, David Crawford, Millport, Scotland
At the Battlefield of Boutillerie on a cold and sodden day a British soldiers fate was sealed, his name was Pte Henry May.
An officer you see, lay injured on the field, Pte May he showed true courage for his nerve it did not yield
 
He carried Lt Graham,, tho blood and sweat perspired, he fell not once, but twice, as the German gunners fired.
Other comrades came to aid,but none were left aive. Twas Gods grand plan that May and Graham,were the ones that should survive.
 
Amid the bullets, bombs and darkness, he never knew what ground he`d gained, but Pte May did spy a ditch,and shelter was obtained.
To his chagrin Pte May found on the arrival of daylight, with a ittle bit of extra push, the British lines would have been in sight.
 
Pte May delivered his comrade to the safety of the ranks, there was plenty of hoorah back slapping and the occasional word of thanks.
but what no one seemed to notice, in the hoorah that followed to boot, was that Pte May had shrapnel in his face and he`d been shot three times on the foot.
 
When Pte May eventually got home, for his wife and weans to see he had no idea that his Sovereign and Country would award him the coveted V.C.
He stood at a dinner and stated that as sure as his name was Henry May that he only did what any other British Sodier would dae.
 
Never in British history has such a sight been seen in front of His Royal Majesty and of course Her Majesty The Queen.
When 324 heroes recieved the Victoria Cross for Gallantry and Valour but at such a terrible loss.
 
This is just a humble token of words that are put into rhyme. But the unselfish show of Valour from these men are etched in stone and time.
For without you Bravery and Courage we would not be allowed to give our children the freedom of choice that we have,
nor the "FREEDOM" in which we now live....Rest in peace O Valiant ones.
 
Penned by Bro David D Crawford,
Past Master Lodge Ballater No1432 (Glasgow)

 

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  Henry May was first from Glasgow's east-end to be awarded the VC in World War 1,
t
he only holder of the Victoria Cross born in Bridgeton district of Glasgow. 
  

HenryMayVC

Newspaper articles

Family details

House of Lords

Graveside

The first Glasgow born person to be awarded the VC in WW1 was Capt. Harry Sherwood Ranken. He was born in Glasgow and lived here till he was eight when his family moved away for his father's work. But he returned to Glasgow to study medicine when he was 17 and worked in Glasgow Western Infirmary for a number of years before joining the Army Medical Corp in 1909.

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