1899, Battle of Elandslaagte

MEIKLEJOHN, MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY, Captain, was born on 27 November 1870, son of Professor Meiklejohn, of St Andrew's University, and was educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh. He joined the Gordon Highlanders in India on 17 June, 1891, and four years later saw his first active service with his regiment when Sir Robert Low's Field Force advanced to the relief of Chitral, by way of the Swat Valley. Two years later the Gordons were again actively employed on the Indian Frontier, and young Meiklejohn was slightly wounded when his regiment gallantly cleared the heights of Dargai of an Afridi lashkar. He saw much more fighting during the campaign in Tirah, especially in the Bara Valley. He received the Indian Medal with three clasps. On the outbreak of the South African War the Gordons came with the Infantry Brigade sent from India, and Meiklejohn was still with them. He was wounded early in the campaign at the battle of Elandslaagte, where he won the decoration of the Victoria Cross, and was desperately wounded. Brought back into Ladysmith, which was shortly afterwards invested by the Boers, he there shared the privations of a close and exhausting siege. It was wonderful, considering the hard­ships the garrison of Ladysmith suffered before they were relieved, that Captain Meiklejohn survived his severe wounds, which entailed the loss of his right arm. It was for gallantry in this advance that Captains Mullins and Johnstone, of the Imperial Light Horse, as well as Captain Meiklejohn, received the Victoria Cross. His own decoration was gazetted on the 20th July, 1900, for the following act of bravery: "Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn, Captain, Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 21 October 1899. At the battle of Elandslaagte, on the 21st October 1899, after the main Boer position had been captured, some of the men of the Gordon Highlanders, when about to advance, were exposed to a heavy cross-fire, and, having lost their leaders, commenced to waver. Seeing this, Captain Meiklejohn rushed to the front and called on the Gordons to follow him. By his conspicuous bravery and fearless example he rallied the men and led them against the enemy's position, where he fell, desperately wounded in four places". Captain Meiklejohn was mentioned in Despatches and received the Queen's Medal. In 1901 he was Garrison Adjutant at St Helena, whence he returned to enter the Staff College. In 1904 he married Vera Marshall, daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Lionel Marshall. They had one son and two daughters. Captain Meiklejohn was later on the General Staff at Army Headquarters, during which service he was promoted to his majority. Major Meiklejohn died on 4 July, 1913, in the Middlesex Hospital, from the effects of an accident in Hyde Park on 28 June. His horse bolted. Major Meiklejohn, handicapped by the loss of his right arm, just managed to steer him into the rails bordering Rotten Row, opposite Knightsbridge Barracks, in order to avoid some children and their nurse, who probably would otherwise have been killed or seriously injured. The mother of these children wrote to the 'Times' of July 7, 1913: "As my nurse was the only eye-witness of the tragic accident which led to Major Meiklejohn's death, I think it right to acquaint the public with her story. She and my children were in Hyde Park on Saturday afternoon, 28 June. They had reached a spot opposite to Knightsbridge Barracks, and, as they were walking along the path, Major Meiklejohn on his runaway horse suddenly came upon them from between the trees. In order to avoid danger to the children, he turned his horse against the railings of Rotten Row, which he must have known he could not clear. He thus gave his life for theirs, and added one more to the long roll of his brave and unselfish deeds". He was buried on Brookwood Cemetery.

VC, IGS (1) Tirah 1897-8, QSA (2) Eland, DofL, 1902 Coronation Medal, 1911 Coronation Medal. RHQ.

Only registered users can post comments