Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Victoria Cross Hero John Was Just 18 When He Made the Ultimate Sacrifice; AS the Country Marks a Century since the Start of the First World War, MIKE BROWN Reports on the Incredible Story of a Man Who Became a Victoria Cross Hero - after Dying Aged Just 18

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Victoria Cross Hero John Was Just 18 When He Made the Ultimate Sacrifice; AS the Country Marks a Century since the Start of the First World War, MIKE BROWN Reports on the Incredible Story of a Man Who Became a Victoria Cross Hero - after Dying Aged Just 18

Article excerpt

Byline: MIKE BROWN

HE was just 18 years old - but Sergeant John Meik-k le's youth was no obstacle to his astonishing bravery.

Armed with just a revolver and walking stick, he TWICE took on a German machine gun crew in the heat of battle.

The teen was killed during the firefight - but the story of his heroics lives on thanks to his proud family.

Sgt Meikle's nephew John, 71, lives in Tollesby, Middlesbrough, and says his uncle joined the Seaforth Highlanders aged only 16, after unsuccesfully trying his luck joining a number of other regiments.

"When I think of his courage now... it is very emotional for me," John said.

"But my grandparents were from a different age.

"They were very religious, and my uncle had to tell a lie about his age in order to get into the forces in the first place - which they were not happy with.

"And he had to kill people in the Army.

"It was with mixed feelings that they accepted the Victoria Cross. I don't think my grandmother came to terms with it."

Despite his heroism, Sgt Meikle's parents John and Anne could not afford the trip to Buckingham Palace to receive the honour.

"My uncle had worked for British Rail, and they had offered to pay for their travel - but they could not afford everything that went with it, the new clothes, the stay etc," continued Mr Meikle.

"I think of this 16-yearold boy who had to see the worst that life could throw at him, as far as battles were concerned.

"At 18, he was prepared to give his life in defence of the country. I think he deserves to be remembered now."

With pride, Mr Meikle looks back on how his uncle came to earn the ultimate accolade for bravery - and gave his life for his country.

"On 15 July 1918, his batallion were sent Southwest to Reims. On July 20 he was sent to the valley of the Ardre, where he and his batallion were under heavy machine gun fire.

"Twice during the assault, his company were badly held up with machine gun fire.

"My uncle then, armed only with a hand revolver, advanced alone and shot at the machine gun crew and then went back to get his company moving again.

"The same thing happened again, so he rushed forward with only his pistol and a heavy walking stick and emptied his revolver into the second gun crew and set about the remaining men with the stick. …

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