b. 22/04/1897 Buckie, Scotland. d. 20/06/1960 Aberdeen, Scotland.
George Imlach McIntosh (1897-1968) was born at 80 Portessie, near Buckie, Banffshire, Scotland on 22nd April 1897. His father, Alexander, was a fisherman and ship’s carpenter. He married Mary Jane Reid on 14th September 1894. They lived on Portessie before moving to Buckie in 1910. Alexander worked for the Admiralty Service from April 1915, serving on a number of boats. George had a single brother, Alexander, who was born before his mother married Alexander senior. A second sibling is believed to have not survived infancy.
George was educated at Fraserburgh Academy, before being employed as an apprentice nipper with wood merchant Tom Jones & Son in 1910. He also worked with John Barclay, a slater, and on the Cluny dock extension to Buckie Harbour. He enlisted in D Company, 6th Gordon Highlanders in 1913 and was mobilised on 4th August 1914. He went to France with his Battalion on 10th November 1914 and was evacuated with trench foot early in the war.
Little is known about what happened to George during the next couple of years of the war, until the events of the 31st July 1917 at St Julien, near Ypres, Belgium on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele. On that day, during the consolidation of a position, the company came under machine-gun fire at close range and Private Mclntosh immediately rushed forward under heavy fire and reaching the emplacement, threw a Mills grenade into it, killing two of the enemy and wounding a third. Subsequently entering the dug-out he found two light machine-guns which he carried back with him. His quick grasp of the situation and the rapidity with which he acted undoubtedly saved many of his comrades and enabled the consolidation to proceed unhindered by machine-gun fire.
He had no idea he had been recommended until he received a congratulatory message from GOC 51st Highland Division, Major General GM Harper CB DSO. He returned to Britain on leave and arrived unannounced at his parent’s home. He was presented with a purse of fifty gold sovereigns by his pre-war employers. The VC was presented to him by King George V at Ibrox Park, Glasgow on 18th September. For a while he was appointed batman to a senior officer, but it did not suit him and he returned to the Battalion for the rest of the war.
George returned to Buckie in July 1919 and worked as a herring runner for Thomson & Brown, a fish sales company. His work took him back to Fraserburgh. On 27th April 1923, he married Alexanderina Sutherland, a dressmaker, at the Station Hotel, Elgin. They had two children – George Imlach (born in 1924) and Grace Grant (born 1929).
George enlisted in the RAF on 21st August 1925 as an Aircraftman/Armourer. He was based at RAF Leuchars, Fife and at No 3 Flying Training School. RAF Spitalgate near Grantham. He transferred to the Reserve in 1932. He was then employed as a green-keeper at Buckie Bowls Club until July 1939, when he was a janitor and groundsman at Buckie High School. On 26th August 1939, he was recalled to the RAF and served at RAF Sullom Voe on Shetland, RAF Mount Batten, Plymouth and RAF St Eval, Cornwall as a Temporary Corporal. He was mentioned in despatches in 1940. In May 1941 he was promoted to Flight Sergeant and served with the Anti-Aircraft Flight at RAF St Eval until 1st October. On one occasion a 100lb bomb narrowly missed him and failed to explode. He was posted to Iceland as a ground gunner and was appointed Acting Warrant Officer in November 1941. He joined No 2848 Squadron at RAF Angle, South Wales in July 1942.
He remained in the RAF until the end of the war, before returning to his janitor job, eventually becoming head janitor, and was granted the Freedom of Buckie in December 1955. He later became the Honorary President of the town’s British Legion, and was also President of the Buckie Bowls Club and a Kirk elder for Buckie North Church.
He died following a series of heart attacks and two operations at Woodend Hospital, Aberdeen on 20th June 1960. He was buried in the family plot at New Cemetery, Buckie and a memorial plaque was placed on the wall behind the grave in 2004. In addition to the VC, he was also awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The medals were purchased for £32,000 by the Ashcroft Trust through Spink’s on 6th November 1996. They are displayed in the Imperial War Museum’s Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: NEW CEMETERY, BUCKIE, BANFFSHIRE, SCOTLAND.
George McIntosh's medals including VC on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (August 2014)
The medals of McIntosh prior to the sale to the Ashcroft Trust in the Gordon Highlanders Museum (Thomas Stewart)
War Illustrated, 6th October 1917
Buckie (Thomas Stewart)
McIntosh's medals at his Stone unveiling in Buckie
(29th July 2017)