Piper Finlay Remembers His WW1 Grandfather on Armistice Day

Sgt. Willie McGhee DCM

Pipe Major Finlay McGhee of RAF Waddington Pipes and Drums, will be thinking of his grandfather on Remembrance Day and carrying his medals in his tunic pocket. 

Willie McGhee DCM enlisted in the 1/5 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in 1914 aged 17. He served in Gallipoli from June 1915 to December 1916. During the Dardanelles Campaign he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry.

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His citation in the London Gazette read: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. After the first objective had been gained and on the enemy making a very heavy counter attack, he rushed forward, rallied the men, and succeeded in overcoming those of the enemy who had entered the position.

‘He showed fine dash and bold initiative.’

Sgt. McGhee then served on the Western Front in France and suffered gunshot wounds to the left arm and chest. The bullet in his chest was close to the heart and could not be removed; it stayed with him for the rest of his long life. He was medically discharged in 1918 aged 21.

Finlay writes: ‘I have attached a couple of cuttings from the papers in Gourock when my grandfather passed. Both my grandfathers were at Gallipoli with the Argylls and both made it back.

Finlay will be carrying his grandfather’s medals on Armistice Day

‘Willie never spoke much about Gallipoli as he was very young when he won the DCM and then moved onto the Western Front where he got shot twice and had a bit of shrapnel that stuck half way through the bible he had in his top left pocket.

‘Both grandfathers told me how their adrenaline would run on hearing the Campbell’s Are Coming – a tune that I sadly never managed to learn as a boy before they died.

‘But I have played it many times over the last couple of weeks. A great tune and that’s from a Queens Own Highlander!’

Another cutting read: ‘An old soldier who carried German bullet near his heart since he was wounded on the Western Front in the first World War was buried in Gourock Cemetery yesterday. He was William McGhee of 10c Chalmers Street, Gourock. He was 79.

‘He was awarded the DCM for outstanding bravery in the Dardanelles and was on elf the last surviving members of the Argyll & Sutherland who took part in the campaign. Later he served with distinction on the Western Front. He is survived by his son John who lives in Kyle of Lochalsh and daughter Mary who teaches in St Ninian’s School, Gourock.’

• Finlay McGhee will be playing the lament at Lincoln Cathedral on Sunday morning.

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