b. 26/08/1896 Dumbarton, Scotland. d. 18/07/1973 East Kilbride, Scotland.
John Brown Hamilton (1896-1973) was born at 190 High Street, Dumbarton, Scotland on 26th August 1896. He was known as Jack or Hammy. His father, Thomas, a journeyman steel moulder, was living in Cambuslang, when he married Agnes Brown on 1st January 1878. She was a handloom weaver, and they had six children, with John as the youngest child. He had four brothers and a sister.
John was educated at a Dumbarton Burgh school, probably West Bridgend School, and later at Dumbarton Academy. He was a Sergeant in 2nd Dumbarton Company Boys’ Brigade. Having left school in 1912, he was an apprentice electrical fitter at Leven Shipyard in Dumbarton. Later he was employed at the Steel Company of Scotland’s Works, Hallside, Newton, Cambuslang and in 1914 he joined the Electrical Company in Pitt Street, Glasgow for six months. He played for Cambuslang Rangers Football Club and was an energetic lifetime supporter of the Club.
John married Mary Love Weir Maxwell on 15th November 1915 at the United Free Church Manse, Cambuslang, where they were both choristers. The marriage was in defiance of their parents, who thought they were too young. They settled in Cambuslang and had four children – John (born 1915, tragically died in the flu epidemic in 1919), Jessie (born 1918), a son (also died in the flu epidemic of 1919) and Ian (born 1926).
John enlisted in 3/9th Highland Light Infantry at the Drill Hall, Greendyke Street, Glasgow on 21st October 1915. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in February 1916, and went to France in April. Having been wounded near High Wood on the Somme in July 1916, he did not recover until September 1917. It was shortly after returning to his unit that he was to be awarded the VC.
On 25th/26th September 1917 north of the Ypres-Menin Road, Belgium, great difficulty was experienced in keeping the front and support line supplied with small arm ammunition, owing to the intense artillery fire. At a time when this supply had reached a seriously low level, Lance-Corporal Hamilton on several occasions, on his own initiative, carried bondoliers of ammunition through the enemy's belts of fire and then, in full view of their snipers and machine-guns which were lying out in the front of our line at close range, he distributed the ammunition.
He was posted to 5th Reserve Battalion and became a sergeant instructor. The VC was presented by the King at Buckingham Palace on 23rd January 1918. John was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Dumbarton and Cambuslang. John returned to his job with the Electrical Company, and was severely wounded in an accident on 28th April 1923. He remained in the TF/TA, but became seriously ill with influenza in 1939 and was declared unfit for overseas service. As a result he was discharged. However, World War II changed his situation and he was granted a Regular Army Emergency Commission in the Pioneer Corps in December 1940. He served in 260th Company and was commanded by Lt Colonel Harry Greenwood VC, DSO, OBE, MC in Prestatyn, Wales. He later commanded a POW camp of Italians in the Middle East. He retired as a Honorary Major in September 1945.
After the war, he became the first probation officer in Lanarkshire and when he retired in 1962 he was Principal to Lanark Joint Probation Committee with a staff of 20. He helped a number of young offenders turn around their lives. In July 1971, the Sunday Post arranged a reunion with his old platoon Sergeant, Jimmy Dickson, at the latter’s home in Aberdeen. It was the first time they had met since Hamilton’s VC action 54 years before. John died at Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride, Strathclyde on 18th July 1973. He was cremated at Daldowie Crematorium, Glasgow and his ashes were scattered there. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, War Medal 1939-45, Defence Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The medals were held by the Glasgow Highlanders Regimental Club until his daughter presented them to the Scottish United Services Museum (now National War Museum of Scotland), Edinburgh Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL WAR MUSEUM, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND
BURIAL PLACE: DALDOWIE CREMATORIUM, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND. ASHES SCATTERED.
John Brown Hamilton's medals displayed at the National War Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland.
(Picture - Thomas Stewart).
Hamilton VC Memorial Arch
War Illustrated, 9th February 1918