Kirrie to honour Black Watch soldier Private Charles Melvin

Private Charles Melvin.
Private Charles Melvin.

One hundred years to the day since Private Charles Melvin’s bravery led to him winning the Victoria Cross, the people of Kirriemuir will gather to remember his actions.

A short ceremony will take place at 11am in Kirrie Square on Friday, April 21 where a commemorative plaque will be unveiled.

The plaque will later be placed outside Kirriemuir library.

Angus Councillor Major Ronnie Proctor MBE, chairman of the Angus Branch of the Black Watch Association and Secretary of the Black Watch Association, said a number of Private Melvin’s descendants will be in attendance.

He added: “Private Melvin was the last member of the Black Watch to be awarded the VC.

“This will be a unique thing for Kirriemuir and I hope local people will take part.

“There will be Black Watch Association members and standard bearers on parade; a piper and a small amount of Black Watch soldiers.”

Major Proctor explained the idea for the plaque was a UK Government initiative first discussed when he served on Kirriemuir Community Council as chairman.

He continued: “The UK Government had decided that, to commemorate all the VC winners in the United Kingdom, they would make available plaques for every VC winner. April 21 is the centenary of Melvin winning his VC at the Battle of Istabulat.”

Anyone wishing to take part in the service should gather in the square from 10.45am onwards for an 11am start.

Three soldiers from Kirriemuir were awarded the VC – the country’s highest military honour: Private Melvin, Captain Lord Lyell and Corporal Dick Burton.

Charles Melvin was serving as a regular soldier in the Black Watch when World War I broke out.

He won his VC in Mesopotamia on April 21, 1917.

The action happened at Istabulat, where Private Melvin’s company had advanced to within 50 yards of the front-line trench of a temporary fortification.

Finding themselves held down by enemy rifle and machine gun fire, Melvin seized the initiative and rushed over open ground, killing two enemy soldiers.

As the other men in the trench continued to fire at him, he jumped in and attacked them with his bayonet.

He killed two more enemy soldiers and managed to disarm nine men.

He then tended to the wounds of an injured man and took all the others prisoner.

While supporting the wounded soldier, Melvin drove the prisoners before him and handed them over to an officer.

He then calmly found ammunition and returned to the firing line and his platoon sergeant. All this was done under intense rifle, machine gun and heavy artillery barrage fire.

Charles Melvin died aged 56 and is buried in Kirriemuir Cemetery. His VC is displayed at the Black Watch Museum, Perth.