b. 02/05/1885 Craig, Angus, Scotland. d. 17/07/1941 Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland
Charles Melvin (1885-1941) was born in Boddin Craig, Montrose, Angus, Scotland on 2nd May 1885. He was the second son of three, together with two sisters, of James Melvin, a ploughman. Charles enlisted on 4th April 1907 at the age of 20, having previously worked in the Kirriemuir Linen Works factory. He was to serve for twelve years in the Army and half of those were spent in India before the Great War began, when by coincidence he was due for some leave. Instead, his division, the Meerut Division, left Karachi on 21st September 1914 and arrived at Marseilles on 12th October and was soon in action.
On 5th December 1915, the division left for Mesopotamia, arriving at Basra on New Years’ Eve 1916. The 2nd Black Watch was now with the 21st Brigade of the 7th (Indian) Division. Melvin’s two brothers also took part in the war: James, the eldest, served in France, and the youngest, David, in Macedonia.
On 21st April 1917 at Istabulat, Mesopotamia, Pte. Melvin's company had advanced to within fifty yards of the front-line trench of a redoubt, where, owing to the intensity of the enemy's fire, the men were obliged to lie down and wait for reinforcements. Pte. Melvin, however, rushed on by himself, over ground swept from end to end by rifle and machine-gun fire. On reaching the enemy trench, he halted and fired two or three shots into it, killing one or two enemy, but as the others in the trench continued to fire at him, he jumped into it, and attacked them with his bayonet in his hand, as, owing to his rifle being damaged, it was not “fixed." On being attacked in this resolute manner most of the enemy fled to their second line, but not before Pte. Melvin had killed two more and succeeded in disarming eight unwounded and one wounded. Pte. Melvin bound up the wounds of the wounded man, and then driving his eight unwounded prisoners before him, and supporting the wounded one, he hustled them out of the trench, marched them in and delivered them over to an officer. He then provided himself with a load of ammunition and returned to the firing line where he reported himself to his platoon sergeant. All this was done, not only under intense rifle and machine-gun fire, but the whole way back Pte. Melvin and his party were exposed to a very heavy artillery barrage fire.
Melvin was wounded in France twice and once in Mesopotamia. At the end of January 1919 he returned home to a hero’s welcome in his hometown of Kirriemuir and was met by a large crowd of well-wishers at the local railway station. A few weeks later, Melvin married Susan Irvine at South Parish Church in Kirriemuir. After he left the Army as a Private later that year, he was transferred to the Class Z Reserve and was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 11th December.
In civilian life, he worked as a caretaker. On 28th December 1930 he unveiled a memorial tablet to those men who belonged to South Church and had served in the war. In November 1934 and 1936 he laid the wreaths at the local war memorial. In the late 1930s, he became caretaker at the Barrie Sports Pavilion and camera obscura on the hill and issued with a uniform. He was very popular with visitors, and was one of six pall-bearers at Sir James Barrie’s funeral in 1937.
Melvin didn’t enjoy the best of health, and in January 1937, he had a bad accident in the High Street when he broke his leg. When World War II broke out, he immediately joined the Home Defence at Dundee. He was one of a unit of ex-servicemen which formed a Home Defence Company. Melvin died on 17th July 1941 at the age of 56, with it not clear if his war service and wounds were linked. He was buried in Kirriemuir Cemetery. His wife was buried with him on her death in 1961. His medals including the VC, 1914-15 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, and George VI Coronation Medal 1937 were donated to the Black Watch Museum, Perth.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: BLACK WATCH MUSEUM, PERTH, SCOTLAND.
BURIAL PLACE: KIRRIEMUIR CEMETERY, KIRRIEMUIR, ANGUS, SCOTLAND.
Charles Melvin's medals at the Black Watch Museum, Perth, Scotland (Picture - Thomas Stewart).
Charles Melvin VC is buried in Section H Grave 671
Cumberland Close, Kirriemuir
Charles Melvin Gardens, Kirriemuir
War Illustrated, 5th January 1918
3 Scots Sergeant's Mess (Thomas Stewart)
Kirriemuir, Angus (Thomas Stewart)
Updated medal group (Thomas Stewart)