To fight in what is one of the worst conflicts in human history is bravery in itself – to survive it with the highest military honour shows courage on another level.
The Victoria Cross was awarded 628 times during the First World War – one person receiving it twice - with two of the recipients from the Falkirk area.
The coveted medal is awarded for valour in the face of the enemy and has no equal, it takes precedence over all other orders, decorations or medals that can be earned by service personnel of any rank under military command.
Samuel Frickleton from Slamannan was one of those men whose immense bravery was recognised by a VC. Despite being wounded in the hip, he singlehandedly destroyed two German machine guns and crews that had caused many casualties in the 3rd Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade during the Battle of Messines in Belgium on June 7, 1917.
His VC citation read: “Although slightly wounded, Lance Corporal Frickleton dashed forward at the head of his section, rushed through a barrage and personally destroyed with bombs an enemy machine gun and crew, which were causing heavy casualties. He then attacked the second gun, killing the whole of the crew of twelve. By the destruction of these two guns he undoubtedly saved his own and other units from very severe casualties and his magnificent courage and gallantry ensured the capture of the objective.
“During the consolidation of the position he suffered a second severe wound. He set, throughout, a great example of heroism.”
Lance Corpl Frickleton was born in the Braes village on April 1, 1891, to a coal-mining family before emigrating to New Zealand when he was 22. Following the outbreak of the war in 1914, he joined his new country’s military in February 1915.
For health reasons, he retired from the military as a captain in April, 1927. He died in Wellington in 1971. There are several memorials across the world in his memory.
The other VC winner was Lieutenant Harcus Strachan who was born in the old burgh of Bo’ness for his “most conspicuous bravery and leadership during operations,” at the Battle of Cambrai on 20 November 20, 1917 at Masnières, France. Mr Strachan killed seven German gunners with his sword.