Great War veteran’s Armistice Day Victoria Cross

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He is said to have been a keen sportsman, a good shot, and, when opportunity offered, a keen follower to hounds, he was a member of the Grand Masonic Lodge.

He was gazetted Second Lieutenant, The Highland Light Infantry on March 2, 1904, promoted Lieutenant on June 19, 1908, and Captain on September 10, 1914.

He served with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from August 1914.

An excerpt from the Highland Light Infantry Chronicle describes the action that won him the VC.

Walter Lorrain Brodie VC MC
Walter Lorrain Brodie VC MC

 

It states: “On November 11 Captain Brodie who was in charge of a machine gun section – moved up to the trenches to relieve a unit of another regiment. When darkness fell, and the men on guard had been posted at the guns, the others prepared to take what rest they could.

“Captain Brodie and several men were in one line of a trench which formed an angle, and all was quiet until the alarm was given that the enemy were making a rush along the other line of the trench.

“Captain Brodie led his men along the trench, the opposing forces met, and the Germans routed – Captain Brodie bayoneting several of the enemy.”

A Colonel of the Highland Light Infantry wrote after Brodie’s death: “No man ever had a more loyal, capable or gallant Staff Officer or a better or more cheery companion.

Walter Lorrain Brodie's grave in  Bienvillers Military Cemetery, Bienvillers-au-Bois, 10 miles east of Doullens, Pas de Calais, France
Walter Lorrain Brodie’s grave in Bienvillers Military Cemetery, Bienvillers-au-Bois, 10 miles east of Doullens, Pas de Calais, France

 

“Only a few days ago I had a letter from him, telling me in what a splendid condition the 2nd Battalion was, and I had heard so from other sources, and also what a success he was in command, as I knew he would be. He must have gone far had he lived.”

“For Walter Brodie to have been awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross, the highest decoration that can be awarded for gallantry, is itself a testament to his bravery and valour.

“For the VC to be awarded on 11/11/ 1914 makes it even more unique as the significance of the date could not have been realised at the time it was awarded.

“Walter Brodie will be remembered along with thousands of others this Remberence Day and in the future.”

Marco Longmore, Rector of Edinburgh Academy said: “The Edinburgh Academy is proud of its nine valiant Academicals who hold the Victoria Cross, with two of them awarded during WWI to Allan Kerr and Walter Lorrain Brodie.

“Armistice Day is particularly significant for Lorrain Brodie, who is featured in the ceremony today as he was awarded the VC on Armistice Day although he died just a few months before the end of the war in August 1918.”

A spokesman from the Grand Lodge of Scotland – the Masonic Lodge – said: “Walter Brodie was a member of the Canongate Kilwinning No. 2 Lodge.

“He must have been a very brave man – you couldn’t be anything else to win a Victoria Cross.”

Brodie had risen to the rank of Lt-Colonel by the time he died and, as colleagues said at the time, was likely to have risen further.

Yet his repeated bravery – and death – in the front lines challenges the still widely-held belief that British soldiers were “lions led by donkeys”.

Professor of War Studies at Wolverhampton University, Gary Sheffield, a leading “revisionist” historian of the First World War, said: “The stereotype is thoroughly misleading.

“By 1914, 40% of all officers were from working class and lower class backgrounds so you can do away with the public school image of officers.

“The lions and donkeys myth hasn’t had credibility for at least 50 years – I think now is the time that this outdated myth should be replaced.”

Prof Sheffield added: “The British Army actually was a rough meritocracy – it kept up the morale of the Army and was important in the way the Army improved tactics.

“A vast number of officers went through the ranks – they ran through public school officers very quickly as they were killed off.

“Officers led from the front. One of the most dangerous ranks to be was a non-commissioned officer – the safest rank was to be a private.”

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