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
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
1,357 times since 1856.
( at year
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)
He attended Dalmarnock Public School in Bridgeton
and enlisted in the Army on 29th August 1902
age of seventeen.
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
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
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..
VC was gazetted four months later on 19th April 1915.
from Daily Record and Mail, Tuesday, April 20 1915
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
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 )
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
After leaving the train he was briefly carried shoulder high by the
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
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
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
( 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,
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 )
buried and has a family headstone at Riddrie
Park Cemetery, Glasgow, Section B. Lair 146.
His VC is
on display at the Cameronians Museum,
|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!
: 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
| COMMENTS FROM MY GUESTBOOK
|Extract from e-mail
Dec.2002, Iain Stewart
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
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,
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
|Extract from e-mail
5th.Dec.2003, L/Cpl Murray, Aldershot, England
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,
"...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
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
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."
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)
| Henry May was first from Glasgow's east-end to be awarded the VC in World War 1,
the only holder of the Victoria Cross born in Bridgeton district of Glasgow.
House of Lords
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.