Friday, November 08, 2013

AYRSHIRE'S GOLFING V.C.'S - The story behind the names

In November each year, thoughts turn to Remembrance and the annual ceremonies held at war memorials throughout the country.

Many golf clubs in Ayrshire have memorials within their clubhouses, listing the fellow members who fell in The Great War of 1914 - 1918 and the subsequent Second World War conflict of 1939 - 1945. 

To some members, the memorials will go unnoticed, others will glance at the memorials on occasions, perhaps wondering about the names listed there, whilst others will remember those commemorated as relatives or perhaps, even still, as comrades in arms and fellow competitors in club competitions long gone.

With an interest in all things history, I often study war memorials when visiting clubhouses both in Ayrshire and beyond, and in recent visits, it was interesting to note that two of our local clubs have listed, amongst their fallen members from The Great War, recipients of the highest of British gallantry awards, The Victoria Cross.

There may be others listed on other club war memorials, and I would be grateful to hear of any other V.C winners listed on Ayrshire golf club memorials, but, in this week of Remembrance, it may be of interest for readers to learn a little more on the two Ayrshire golfing V.C.'s I happened upon.

Captain Harry S. Ranken
The first V.C recipient I happened upon is listed on the Irvine GC war memorial, in the main hallway of the Bogside clubhouse.

Described as a scratch golfer who represented his university in matches and won many trophies, Captain Harry S. Ranken was serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps when he died on 25th September 1914 at the age of 31. He lies buried in Braine Communal Cemetery in France.

Henry (Harry) Sherwood Ranken was born on 3rd September 1883 the son of a local minister.#

He first enrolled at the University of Glasgow in summer 1900 and over the course of his studies he won eight prizes.

These included three surgery prizes and later he received his MB ChB degrees in July 1905. In 1910 he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians of London.

Braine Communal Cemetery
Before entering military service, Captain Ranken co wrote a number of medical articles and held posts at Glasgow's Western Infirmary and at the Brook Fever Hospital in London.
He joined the Army in 1909, being promoted to Captain in 1912. When war broke out, he volunteered for active service and became the Regimental Medical Officer for the 1st Kings Royal Rifle Corps with the British Expeditionary Force. For gallant conduct under fire in France between 21st and 30th August 1914 he was awarded the Croix de Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour and was mentioned in despatches.

On 19th and 20th September 1914 at Haute-Avesnes, France, Captain Ranken was severely wounded in the leg whilst attending to his duties on the battlefield under shrapnel and rifle fire. He stopped the bleeding and bound it up, then continued to dress the wounds of his men, sacrificing his own chance of survival to their needs. When he finally permitted himself to be carried to the rear at Braine, his wounds were too severe and he died on 25th September.
For this act of heroism he was awarded the Victoria Cross which is now held at the Army Medical Services Museum in Aldershot. 
The Times History of War states that ' No man ever won the Victoria Cross more nobily than did Captain Harry Ranken RAMC'.

In 1924, his parents founded a University of Glasgow prize in his memory. It is still awarded annually to the candidate who obtains the highest number of marks in the professional examinations in Pathology.
The second V.C. recipient I came across recently is listed on the war memorial at Prestwick Golf Club, which members and guests pass on a daily basis when entering the main room of the clubhouse.
W. Herbert Anderson V.C.
Lieutenant Colonel William Herbert Anderson of The Highland Light Infantry died on 25th March 1918 at the age of 36. He lies buried in Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt in France.
Herbert Anderson hailed from Largo in Fife and was a son of W.J. Anderson C.B.E and Nora Anderson of Strathairly, largo, and husband of Mrs Gertrude Campbell Anderson.
The action which lead to his death, and posthumous award of the Victoria Cross, is well documented.
After three days of very heavy fighting, by the night of the 24th March 1918, the enemy had reached a line stretching from the village of Longueval, near Delville Wood to a point on the eastern side of Curlu on the River Somme. The 51st Brigade to the left were having a hard time finding sufficient numbers of men to fill a one and half mile gap which had opened up between V Corps and VII Corps. The VII Corps therefore supplied men of the 1st Dismounted Brigade to help form a defensive flank but even then the gap was not adequately plugged and Germans could be seen streaming past into Mametz Wood.


The Citation from the London Gazzette of 3rd may 1918, describes the actions of Anderson that earned the ultimate bravery award.


Bois Favieres, France, , 25 March 1918, Temporary Major ( A / Lieutenant Colonel ) William Herbert Anderson, comd 12th (S) Bn, Highland Light Infantry.
For most conspicuous bravery, determination, and gallant leading of his command. ( Bois Favieres near Maricourt, France ) The enemy attacked on the right of the battalion frontage, and succeeded in penetrating the wood held by our men. Owing to successive lines of the enemy following on closely there was the greatest danger that the flank of the whole position would be turned.

Grasping the seriousness of the situation, Colonel Anderson made his way across the open in full view of the enemy now holding the wood on the right, and after much effort succeeded in gathering the remainder of the two right companies. He personally led the counter-attack and drove the enemy from the wood, capturing twelve machine guns and seventy prisoners, and restoring the original line.
His conduct in leading the charge was quite fearless and his most splendid example was the means of rallying and inspiring the men during a most critical hour.
Perronne Road Cemetery
Later on the same day, in another position, the enemy had penetrated to within three hundred yards of the village and were holding a timber-yard in force. Colonel Anderson reorganised his men after they had been driven in and brought them forward to a position of readiness for a counter-attack. He led the attack in person and throughout showed the utmost disregard for his own safety. The counter-attack drove the enemy from his position, but resulted in this very gallant officer losing his life. He died fighting within the enemy’s lines, setting a magnificent example to all who were privileged to serve under him.
Anderson's body was found where he had fallen, together with some of his effects, which were sent home to his wife. He was buried in Peronne Road Cemetery, near Albert.
The Victoria Cross, less the campaign medals, earned by Lieutenant Colonel William Herbert Anderson, has been loaned to the Imperial War Museum in London.
The Glasgow Cathedral
to the Anderson brothers

Herbert Anderson was one of four brothers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in The Great War. Two of his brothers, Second Lieutenant Alexander Ronald Anderson (d. 1915 - aged 31) and Captain Charles Hamilton Anderson (d. 1914), both also of the Highland Light Infantry, are also commemorated on the Prestwick GC war memorial.

When Anderson's father was elected Captain of Prestwick GC in 1918, sympathy was extended to him by the members at the AGM for the grievous loss he had suffered during the war.

There is also a memorial to all four brothers in Glasgow Cathederal, which includes the younger brother, Captain Edward Kerr Anderson of the 5th Btn, Highland Light Infantry, who was attached to the Royal Flying Corps when he was killed in 1918 aged 21. 

A novel, The Way Home, was published in 2007 about Anderson and his three brothers who were also killed in the First World War. It was written by Robin Scott-Elliot, Anderson's great-grandson.

Alasdair J Malcolm


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't you state where you got all the information? ie The Story of Glasgow University website for Harry Ranken?