b. 31/01/1894 Airdrie, Scotland. d. 04/06/1972 Glasgow, Scotland.
David Ross Lauder (1894-1972), the first member of the Royal Scots Fusiliers to be awarded the VC in World War One, was born in East Glentire, Airdrie, Scotland, on 21st January 1894. His early years were spent in Dalry. He worked as a carter in the town and, in his spare time, trained with the local Territorials as a member of the 1/4th Royal Scots Fusiliers. In February 1913, he married Dorina Cavanagh McGuigan, and that same year, they had their first child, Angus. Shortly after his call up at the outbreak of the war, Lauder’s wife left Dalry and settled in Glasgow, near to her sisters.
After a period of training in Britain, the 52nd Division was sent to Gallipoli in the spring of 1915, arriving on the peninsula during the first week of June. The division’s passage to Gallipoli had been fraught with difficulty and misfortune. En route to the embarkation port, a troop train carrying members of the division had crashed, killing 210 men and injuring a further 224. The ¼ Royal Scots Fusiliers had another escape when the SS Reindeer collided with the SS Immingham. The Immingham sank, whilst the Reindeer had to limp back to Mudros.
The ¼ Royal Scots Fusiliers were not involved in the division’s first major operation, the ill-fated action of 28th June. They were then involved in the operations around Achi Baba Nullah on 12th July, and suffered heavy casualties. In less than an hour, they lost all but one of their officers and nearly half their rank and file were killed or wounded. Lauder was said to have been deeply affected by the action that day.
On 13th August 1915 at Cape Helles, Gallipoli, Turkey, Private Lauder was with a bombing party retaking a sap when he threw a bomb which failed to clear the parapet and fell amongst the bombing party. There was no time to smother the bomb and Private Lauder at once put his foot on it, thereby localizing the explosion. His foot was blown off, but the remainder of the party escaped unhurt.
Lauder was evacuated due to his wounds and discharged from the Army. He settled back to civilian life in Glasgow with his growing family. Between 1916 and 1924, the Lauders had four more children, two sons and two daughters. He was gazetted for the VC on 13th January 1917, and was presented with his medal by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 3rd March 1917. He then joined the General Post Office as a telephone operator, rising to become supervisor at the Pitt Street Exchange.
Lauder became estranged from his first wife, and it resulted in divorce. He remarried in 1925 to Rachel Bates. They had five children, although two sadly were to die in infancy. Throughout his life, he continued to suffer the effects of his terrible injury. He had shrapnel in his leg and in one of his hands for the rest of his life. His war wounds did not, however, prevent Lauder from performing a peacetime act of gallantry in April 1937 when he was a passenger aboard a tramcar which jumped the rails and collided with a bus in Glasgow’s Hope Street. Despite being dazed and cut, Lauder helped the more seriously injured out of the wreckage before reporting for work!
When the Second World War broke out, Lauder spent his nights working as a telephone switchboard operator and his days as a part-time air raid warden in Dulmarnock Ward. It is believed he also served for a time in the Home Guard. He retired from his job at the GPO in 1960, but continued to work part-time as a nightwatchman for a local bakery. Throughout his retirement he kept in close contact with his former regiment and fellow Glasgow VC holders.
He died at his home, 39 Corran Streer, Cranhill, Glasgow on 4th June 1972. Four days later, a piper from the Royal Highland Fusiliers, played a lament at his funeral. He was cremated at Daldowie Crematorium and his ashes were scattered in the June Avenue of trees. In 1979, his medals including his VC and Serbian Medal for Bravery, were sold for £10,000. They appeared again at auction in 1994, where they fetched £17,000. They are now part of the Ashcroft Collection, Imperial War Museum, London. As one of fourteen Lanarkshire recipients of the Victoria Cross, Scotland’s sole army VC recipient of the Gallipoli campaign is commemorated on a specially commissioned memorial arch in Hamilton town square unveiled in 2002.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: DALDOWIE CREMATORIUM, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND. ASHES SCATTERED.
Greengairs Church, Airdrie, Scotland
The Lanarkshire VC Memorial, Hamilton courtesy of the
Roll of Honour website.
War Illustrated, 3rd February 1917