Port William soldier honoured with British and French medals

Sergreant Majot McGill and Private Steele
Sergreant Majot McGill and Private Steele

In the pages of the Galloway Gazette in March 1917 was this tribute to an incredibly brave solider who had shown ‘splendid courage’ in the trenches.

A large number of British and French officers gathered at a secret location in Northern France to see Sergeant-Major John McGill, Cameron Highlanders, from South Street, Port William, presented with the Military Medal and the Croix de Geurre with palms.

McGill’s company had arrived at the Somme to relieve two French companies in the trenches. All went well initially, despite German shells falling, but when the French were leaving the trenches, there came a sudden attack from the Germans. Sergeant-Major McGill found himself in an advanced post, well beyond the lines, having volunteered to go into no man’s land to watch the German lines. When the Germans started streaming over the top he sent up a flare to give the alarm and then sat with his rifle ready to shoot. He let the Germans come within 30 yards of him before opening fire and killing six. More Germans charged forward and McGill killed three more. Surrounded by the enemy, his nerve did not fail him. He dashed from his shelter, shouting “come on men!” – and the Germans, fearing a counter-attack, fell back hurriedly. Seeing they had been fooled, they returned to the attack, but by this time the British guns were ready and mowed them down, the splendid coolness of John McGill giving them time to prepare. McGill was wounded by a bullet during the action, but did fully recover.

Newton soldier killed

Private Robert Steele, Loyal North Lancashires, from Ferguson Terrace, was killed in action, having joined the Field Artillery in October 1916. Wounded and being carried to the rear, he was hit again, this time fatally. He was 19 years old and had only been at the front a few weeks.