John McKeeman, Blantyre Hero

Blantyre Soldiers fighting in WW1 won many awards and accolades but when a soldier at the front, John McKeeman did something remarkably brave and was not shown recognition by the army, local people later took it upon themselves to acknowledge his bravery.

Lance Corporal John McKeeman, a soldier in the 1st Cameronians is the central figure in this story.

During the first week in January 1919, Blantyre people met to present returning hero, John with silver cigarette case and handsome clock, gifts which had been provided by Lt Anderson, whose life John had saved.

The story goes that on 8th May 1918, whilst the British led an attack on the German positions at Mount Kemmel (Flanders, Belgium), Lt J Boyd Anderson was severely wounded in ‘no mans’ land.

Blantyre’s John McKeeman made his way bravely to the officer on his own under heavy gunfire, reached him and got him to a safer position by ‘digging in’. He then tended to his wounds by bandaging, whilst still on the battlefield, gave him some food and foraged for nearby water. Trapped by daylight, they remained there until darkness and were shocked to find themselves under heavy nighttime shelling. It was time to move!

John lifted Lt Anderson and carried him back in pitch darkness over bad ground, partly being shelled, for nearly a distance of a mile!

No military medal was ever issued for this bravery, mostly as Lt Anderson was too ill for many months after, even to make a recommendation to HQ. It took a few months later again for John’s bravery to finally be recognised by the people in his hometown.

Pictured is the WW1 topography captured at the time of this battle. This was the landscape that John endured that long, dangerous walk back to his own lines.

From the book, “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2019

Featuring Blantyre Project Social Media with permission. Strictly not for use by others on or offline, our visitors said:

Lesley Bethel Brave man!
Margaret Mary OSullivan Even the most vivid imagination could not capture what those poor men went through!
Marian Maguire Omg what they suffered, we should be so thankful to them.
Jessie Caldow A brave and true hero! good to know he was acknowledged by his hometown of Blantyre

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