Their Stories III
Some Decorated Men of Govan
Captain John Alexander Harper
A medical doctor in private practice in Govan, John was born on 14 April 1888 and spent his childhood at 8 Brighton Terrace, Ibrox. A gifted athlete as well as a prize winning academic, he went to France as a Medical Officer in the RAMC and was attached to the 7th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment in December 1915, then holding part of the Ypres salient. Here he gained the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry when leading stretcher bearers during operations. On one occasion when three of his bearers were wounded, he went alone under heavy fire to the aid post”. He died aged 27 on 14th February 1917 and is buried at The Guards Cemetery, Combles in France, where his tombstone bears the simple inscription “He was loved”.
Sergeant George Battison Smith
Born in Govan in 1894, George lived at 3 Drumoyne Terrace and attended Govan High School, after which he became Assistant Librarian at Glasgow University. He joined the 9th Battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), who fought at Loos in 1915, then through the Somme and Ypres. During this time George was awarded the Military Medal for exceptional bravery, the equivalent of the Military Cross for non-commissioned office3rds and men. On 19th October 1918, less than a month before the armistice, George died during the Allied advance through Belgium. He is buried in the Harlebeke New British Cemetery in West Flanders.
Lieutenant-Colonel Gavin Laurie Wilson
Born in the school house at Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire on 13 October 1894, Gavin was a mining engineer before joining the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders on 10th July 1915 and was a Battalion Machine Gun Officer at the Battle of Loos. By 1916 he had become a captain and was also married with a child, living at 78 Copland Road, Govan. Gavin was also wounded in action at the Somme in 1916, the same action gaining him a Military Cross. He went on to be awarded the Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, the Croix de Chevalier de la Legion D’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre, and he was twice mentioned in dispatches. During this time he also rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Gavin survived the War, but tragically died shortly afterwards of bronchitis at Etaples on 11th February 1919. He was still only 24 years old. Gavin’s name does not appear on the War Memorial Roll of Honour.
Sergeant Malcolm McIver
Malcom, who lived at 5 Shandon Street Govan, served with the 3rd Battalion of the Cameronians. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1916 for conspicuous gallantry while operating as a stretcher bearer. Over the course of several days he carried wounded men back to Allied lines while under intense shellfire until he himself was wounded. He was later awarded a bar to the DCM, in 1917, again for conspicuous gallantry, again as a stretcher bearer, this time for taking out stretcher parties to No Man’s Land to bring in wounded men. This required making several journeys during the night through heavily shelled areas. Malcolm survived the end of the War but died of his wounds on 11th January 1920. His name does not appear on the War Memorial Roll of Honour.