Personal info

  • Name: John Crawford BUCHAN
  • D.O.B: 10th October, 1892
  • D.O.A: 22nd March, 1918
  • D.O.D: 22nd March, 1918
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Second Lieutenant, 1/7th Battalion Princess Louise’s (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) attached 1/8th Battalion (TF), 183rd Brigade, 61st Division
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Near St Quentin, France 21 March 1918

21 March 1918

More details about:
The First World War 1918 

On 21 March 1918, the first day of the German Spring offensive (see above), there was heavy fighting around the German held town of St Quentin, about twenty-five miles south-east of the VC actions near Bapaume. 8th Battalion The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regimentwas in the British Line at Le Verguier, about seven miles north-west of St Quentin. The German advance surrounded the village on three sides but, such was the strength of the resistance, it was not until the following day that they secured the village itself. It was here that Lance Corporal J W Sayer displayed great bravery in its defence. Four miles southwest of Le Verguier was Marteville. East of here and north-west of St Quentin 61st Division was in the line. Second Lieutenant J C Buchan, attached 1/8th Battalion (TF) Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, fought gallantly all day but his position was eventually overrun. In the same sector Lieutenant A E Ker and his men of 61st Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, though in a hopeless position, kept a significant force of the enemy engaged for three hours before they were forced to surrender. South of here the Front was manned by 30th Division. 16th Battalion The Manchester Regiment was in the line, a couple of miles due west of St Quentin, between the villages of Francilly-Selency and Savy. Just south of Francilly lay Manchester Hill with its Redoubt. As elsewhere, the forward positions were quickly overrun by the German advance and Manchester Redoubt was surrounded. However, Temporary Lieutenant Colonel W Elstob inspired his men to carry on resisting the enemy until he was killed during the final German assault at about 3.30pm. His last message to HQ was ‘Goodbye’. To the south-west of St Quentin 36th (Ulster) Division was in the line. When its forward positions were captured Second Lieutenant E de Wind, 15th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles, held out until 6pm at Racecourse Redoubt, on the St Quentin-Chauny railway, near Grugies, two miles south of St Quentin. The thirty or so men left in the garrison were taken prisoner soon after de Wind was killed. Five or so miles to the south, 18th Division was in the line west of the Oise Canal around Vendeuil. 10th Battalion The Essex Regiment was left holding on to positions at Caponne Farm and Moulin Farm, supported by two artillery batteries from 83rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, C and D, commanded by Captain Haybittel and Lieutenant Ellis. At 8pm Captain Haybittel ordered C Battery to withdraw. Gunner C E Stone was one in a party of six men detailed to provide protective cover. Haybittel and Ellis were both awarded the DSO for their actions. Along most of the front, the German offensive had swept over British positions and in the south the Germans had advanced as far as the Crozat Canal, which linked the Oise to the Somme.

Citation

 For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. When fighting with his platoon in the forward position of the battle zone, 2nd Lt. Buchan, although wounded early in the day, insisted on remaining with his men, and continually visited all his posts, encouraging and cheering his men in spite of most severe shell fire, from which his platoon was suffering heavy casualties. Later, when the enemy were creeping closer, and heavy machine-gun fire was raking his position, 2nd Lt. Buchan, with utter disregard of his personal safety, continued to visit his posts, and though still further injured accidentally, he continued to encourage his men and visit his posts. Eventually, when he saw the enemy had practically surrounded his command, he collected his platoon and prepared to fight his way back to the supporting line. At this point the enemy, who had crept round his right flank, rushed towards him, shouting out “Surrender.” “To hell with surrender,” he replied, and shooting the foremost of the enemy, he finally repelled this advance with his platoon. He then fought his way back to the supporting line of the forward position, where he held out till dusk. At dusk he fell back as ordered, but in spite of his injuries again refused to go to the aid post, saying his place was beside his men. Owing to the unexpected withdrawal of troops on the left flank it was impossible to send orders to 2nd Lt. Buchan to withdraw, as he was already cut off, and he was last seen holding out against overwhelming odds. The gallantry, self-sacrifice, and utter disregard of personal safety displayed by this officer during these two days of most severe fighting is in keeping with the highest traditions of the British Army. 

Third Supplement to The London Gazette of 21 May 1918. 22 May 1918, Numb. 30697, p. 6058

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