Lance-Sergeant Samuel McGaw VC

Samuel McGaw was born in Kirkmichael, Ayrshire in 1838. He fought in the 1874 war against the Ashantis on the Gold Coast (now Ghana). At the battle of Amoaful, on 31 Jan 1874 Lance-Sergeant McGaw led his section through the bush and continued throughout the day although he was badly wounded early in the battle. More than 110 men of the regiment were wounded that day. McGaw was recommended for the VC and it was gazetted on 28 Mar 1874. He reached the rank of sergeant and died in Larnaca, Cyprus on 22 July 1878. The 42nd were the first regiment to be posted to Cyprus when the British took control of the island. Sergeant McGaw died on the first day. The regiment marched three miles to Chiflik Pasha camp but they were clothed in dress doublets and trews. Many suffered heatstroke, including McGaw who died that day. He was buried near where he fell and his grave marked with a wooden cross.

Five years later, in 1883, Captain Andrew Scott-Stevenson of the Black Watch, and commissioner of Kyrenia for the previous 3 years, learned that the local farmer who owned the land on which Sergeant McGaw was buried, had removed the grave marker and was about to plough up the land over the grave. The captain had the site of the grave traced, and had the remains exhumed and taken to Kyrenia on the north coast. The remains were placed on a shell, covered with a British flag and conveyed to the cemetery on the shoulders of 6 Turkish Zaptiehs. Capt Scott-Stevenson followed, and attended as the body was placed in a requisitioned ancient stone sarcophagus alongside the graves of 3 young comrades of the 42nd who who died in the military camp at Kyrenia between 8 Sep and 29 Oct 1878. After the interment Mrs Scott-Stevenson laid wreaths of passion flower and jasmine on the sarcophagus. Of all the soldiers who have died and been buried in Cyprus, McGaw was the only recipient of the VC.

The Grave of Sergeant McGaw VC

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by Stephen Luscombe