Remembering a hero of Kirriemuir

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A commemorative stone honouring the brave actions of an Angus soldier in the First World War will be formally unveiled at a ceremony in Kirriemuir this month.

The ceremony takes place at 11am on Friday, April 21 – 100 years to the day since Charles Melvin’s most conspicuous bravery, coolness and resource in action at Istabulat in Iraq earned him the Victoria Cross.

Georgiana Osborne, Lord-Lieutenant of Angus, will join members of Charles Melvin’s family in performing the unveiling in Kirriemuir Town Square.

Also taking part in the event will be Angus Provost Alex King, Pipe Major Alistair Duthie, Colonel Alex Murdoch TD and Captain P Marshall – all of the Black Watch Association - as well as Webster’s High School’s brass ensemble.

Elected and local community members will also be attending.

The ceremony is part of the remembrance of the sacrifice of the First World War and a national campaign by the Department for Communities and Local Government to honour all VC recipients.

Throughout the day on which his actions are being honoured, Private Melvin, then aged 31, is said to have greatly inspired those around him with his confidence and courage.

His company had advanced to within fifty yards of the front-line trench of a redoubt (fortification), but due to intense enemy fire the men had to lie down and wait for reinforcements. Private Melvin did not wait. He rushed on alone over ground being swept from end to end by rifle and machine gunfire until he reached the enemy’s trench.

There he fired shots into the trench, killing one or two enemy. As others in the trench continued to fire on him, he jumped into it and attacked them with his bayonet in hand, rather than fixed on his rifle, which was damaged.

Under attack by Private Melvin, most of the enemy fled but not before he had killed two more men and disarmed a further eight unwounded and one wounded. He bound the wounds of the injured man and then hustled all nine from the trench and marched them off, delivering them to an officer.

Private Melvin then took more ammunition and returned to the firing line, where he reported himself to his Platoon Sergeant. All this was done, not only under intense machine gun and rifle fire, but the whole way back Private Melvin and his party were exposed to very heavy artillery barrage fire.

Charles Melvin died on 17 July 1941 and is buried at Kirriemuir.

The remembrance stone in Kirriemuir Town will remind generations to come of his remarkable actions 100 years ago and of the sacrifice made by those who fought in the First World War and conflicts since.

Roads around the Square, Bank Street and High Street, will be closed from 10.45am and during the ceremony, with diversions operating to allow the event to proceed.