b. 01/04/1893 Glenmavis, Scotland. d. 26/12/1977 Glenmavis, Scotland.
John Carmichael (1893-1977) was born at Stoneybrae Cottages, Glenmavis, New Monkland, near Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 1st April 1893. His father, Alexander, was a mason, and married Janet Harrison in 1877, by which time he was a stonedresser. John was one of ten children born to the couple between 1878 and 1898.
John was educated at New Monkland Parish School, Glenmavis and was then employed by Messrs More & Co Quarrymasters alongside his father. He enlisted with 415th (Lowland) Field Company, Royal Engineers (62nd Division) at Coatdyke, near Airdrie on 8th June 1915. With little prospect of getting to the front quickly, he transferred to 8th Sherwood Foresters in 46th Division and went to France in 1916. He transferred to 9th North Staffordshire Regiment in early 1917.
On 8th September 1917 near Hill 60, Zwarteleen, Belgium, when excavating a trench, Sergeant Carmichael saw that a grenade had been unearthed and had started to burn. He immediately rushed to the spot shouting to his men to get clear, put his steel helmet over the grenade and then stood on the helmet. The grenade exploded and blew him out of the trench. He could have thrown the bomb out of the trench but realised that by doing so he would have endangered the lives of the men working on top. He was seriously injured.
He was evacuated to No 53 Casualty Clearing Station at Bailleul and was visited by his Divisional Commander, Major General Hugh Bruce Williams, and Carmichael told him “I didn’t think I was doing anything extraordinary.” When he wrote to his mother, who had heard he was wounded, he told her he was recovering well, but mentioned nothing of his VC award. The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 22nd June 1918. His injuries were so severe that he never returned to the front and spent most of the next two years in a Liverpool hospital. He was discharged on 13th September 1918 and was awarded the Silver War Badge.
John invested the £1,000 presented to him by the citizens of Airdrie in a small chicken farm at New Monkland. He branched out into public transport, starting with one vehicle, and his fleet grew to 40 buses operating between Airdrie, Helensburgh on the Clyde, Kilsyth and Stirlingshire. He also expanded his agricultural interests by taking on two other farms. He married Margaret Aitken on 22nd April 1931 and they had no children. He served in 2nd Lanarkshire Battalion Home Guard and was promoted to Lieutenant in August 1942. He was also President of the Coatbridge branch of the Royal British Legion. He sold his bus company in 1967 and retired.
John died at his home, Hurstmain, Glenmavis on Boxing Day 1977, the last surviving North Staffordshire VC. He was buried in Landward Cemetery, New Monkland, and his wife sadly died just six weeks later, and was buried with him. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Medal 1977. His medals were presented to the Staffordshire Regiment by his sister in May 1978 at the Drill Hall, Airdrie. The medals are held by the Staffordshire Regimental Museum, Whittington Barracks, Lichfield.
LOCATION OF MEDAL:STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT MUSEUM, LICHFIELD.
BURIAL PLACE: NEW MONKLAND CEMETERY, STRATHCLYDE, SCOTLAND.
John Carmichael's medals including VC on display at the Staffordshire Regimental Museum, Lichfield (August 2014). Also pictured is his Roll Book.
War Illustrated, 10th November 1917
Medal displayed at Lichfield Cathedral (June 2018)