b. 05/03/1896 Comrie, Scotland. d. 19/02/1970 Crieff, Scotland.
John Manson Craig (1896-1970) was born on 5th March 1896 at Innergeldie, Comrie, Perthshire (Tayside). He was the son of John Craig of Craigdarroch, Ayrshire, and Margaret Eleanora McCosh. Most of his schooling was spent at Morrison’s Academy, Crieff (1905-1914). During this period he became a boy scout with the 5th Perthshire Troop, Crieff. At the end of the summer of 1914, he left for Trinity College, Cambridge, where he gained a science degree and became a member of the Officer Training Corps.
Eight months after the war, he joined the Cameron Highlanders on 6th April 1915. After training he served with the 6th Battalion in France and saw action at Loos in September. He was then commissioned in the spring of 1916 and posted to the Royal Scots Fusiliers, serving in Egypt and Palestine. During the voyage he was placed in charge of a draft of men on board the “Invernia” when it was torpedoed and sank.
In May 1917, he was wounded, but after a short time out of action, he returned at the beginning of June, just in time for his actions at Gaza which led to the VC.
On 5th June 1917 in Egypt, an advanced post having been rushed by the enemy, Second Lieutenant Craig immediately organised a rescue party and after tracking the enemy back to his trenches, set his party to work removing the dead and wounded under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire. An NCO was wounded and a medical officer who went to his aid was also wounded. Second Lieutenant Craig went out at once and got the NCO under cover, but while taking the medical officer to shelter was himself wounded. Nevertheless the rescue was effected, and he then scooped cover for the wounded, thus saving their lives.
Towards the end of the war, he was transferred to the RAF and was discharged from the services with the rank of Lieutenant in 1919. He was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 10th December 1919.
Between the wars he spent 17 years as an inspector with the Sudan Plantation Syndicate growing cotton in the Blue Nile Province. In 1931 he married Elizabeth Melville Henderson. In 1940 he returned home on leave and joined the RAF Police, serving for five years with the rank of Wing Commander, though he never flew. After the war, he retired to Comrie, where he enjoyed golf and gardening.
During his life, he was able to attend most of the VC functions, including the Buckingham Palace Garden Party in 1920, and the Cenotaph and Unknown Warrior services in November 1920. He also attended the House of Lords’ VC Dinner in 1929 and the VC Centenary Celebrations in Hyde Park in 1956. After a long illness, he died at Crieff Cottage Hospital on 19th February 1970 and was cremated at Perth Crematorium three days later. His ashes were buried in the family plot at Comrie Cemetery. He was survived by his wife and two twin sons, John and Ronald, born in 1936, and a daughter, Nora, born in 1940.
In addition to the VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The medals are still held by the Craig family.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: PERTH CREMATORIUM, PERTH, SCOTLAND. ASHES INTERRED COMRIE CEMETERY, NEAR CRIEFF.
Comrie Cemetery pictures courtesy of Thomas Stewart
War Illustrated, 1st September 1917