Lanarkshire VC Memorial cover signed by Scottish VC recipients John Cruickshank VC and Bill Reid VC
John Alexander Cruickshank, VC (born 20 May 1920) is a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Cruickshank was awarded the VC in sinking a German U-boat and then despite serious injuries safely landing his aircraft.
The announcement and accompanying citation for the decoration was published in supplement to the London Gazette on 1 September 1944, reading
'Air Office, 1st September, 1944.
"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:
Flying Officer John Alexander CRUICKSHANK (126700), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. No. 210 Squadron.
This officer was the captain and pilot of a Catalina flying boat which was recently engaged on an anti-submarine patrol over northern waters. When a U-boat was sighted on the surface, Flying Officer Cruickshank at once turned to the attack. In the face of fierce anti-aircraft fire he manoeuvred in-to position and ran in to release his depth charges. Unfortunately they failed to drop.
Flying Officer Cruickshank knew that the failure of this attack had deprived him of the advantage of surprise and that his aircraft offered a good target to the enemy's determined and now heartened gunners.
Without hesitation, he climbed and turned to come in again. The Catalina was met by intense and accurate fire and was repeatedly hit. The navigator/bomb aimer, was killed. The second pilot and two other members of the crew were injured. Flying Officer Cruickshank was struck in seventy-two places, receiving two serious wounds in the lungs and ten - penetrating wounds in the lower limbs. His aircraft was badly damaged and filled with the fumes of exploding shells. But he did not falter. He pressed home his attack, and released the depth charges himself, straddling the submarine perfectly. The U-boat was sunk.
He then collapsed and the second pilot took over the controls. He recovered shortly afterwards and, though bleeding profusely, insisted on resuming command and retaining it until he was satisfied that the damaged aircraft was under control, that a course had been set for base and that all the necessary signals had been sent. Only then would he consent to receive .medical aid and have his wounds attended to. He refused morphia in case it might prevent him from carrying on.
During the next five and a half hours of the return flight he several times lapsed into unconsciousness owing to loss of blood. When he came to, .his first thought on each occasion was for the safety of his aircraft and crew. The damaged aircraft eventually reached base but it was clear that an immediate landing would (be a hazardous task for the wounded and less experienced second, pilot. Although able to breathe only with the greatest difficulty, Flying Officer Cruickshank insisted on being carried forward and propped up in the second pilot's seat. For a full hour, in spite of his agony and ever-increasing weakness, he gave orders as necessary, refusing to allow the aircraft to be brought down until the conditions of light and sea made this possible without undue risk.
With his assistance the aircraft was safely landed on the water. He then directed the taxying and beaching of the aircraft so that it could easily be salvaged. When the medical officer went on board, Flying Officer Cruickshank collapsed and he had to foe given a blood transfusion before he could be removed to hospital.
By pressing home the second attack in his gravely wounded condition and continuing his exertions on the return journey with his strength failing all the time, he seriously prejudiced his chance of survival even if the aircraft safely reached its base. Throughout, he set an example of determination, fortitude and devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the Service."
William Reid VC (21 December 1921 – 28 November 2001) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He earned his Victoria Cross as a pilot in the Royal Air Force Bomber Command during the Second World War.
Born in Baillieston, Lanarkshire, he applied to join the RAF on the outbreak of war. After initial training, he was selected as a bomber pilot, and soon became a flying instructor himself. He was eventually given an operational posting, flying a number of raids before that on Düsseldorf which led to the award of the VC. On a later raid he was shot down and spent some time as a German prisoner of war. He left the RAF after the war, and worked in the agricultural industry.
On 19 November 2009 his VC was sold at auction for ?384,000, a record for a VC awarded to someone from the United Kingdom.
Reid was a 21-year-old acting flight lieutenant serving in 61 Squadron when he took part in the raid on Düsseldorf in Germany which led to the award of his VC.
On the night of 3 November 1943, on the way to Düsseldorf, the windscreen of Flight Lieutenant Reid's Lancaster (serial LM360) was shattered by fire from a Messerschmitt Bf 110 and the gun turrets and cockpit badly damaged. Saying nothing of his multiple injuries, he continued on his mission and soon afterwards the bomber was attacked again by a Focke-Wulf Fw 190. His navigator was killed and the wireless operator fatally wounded. He was wounded again, as was the flight engineer, while the Lancaster received more serious damage. The starboard part of the tailplane had been lost. He decided to carry on, rather than turn back. No-one else on board could have flown the plane in a straight line, let alone with all the damage sustained. Reid modestly claimed that his main reason for pressing on was that turning back would have involved flying through or across the following bomber stream, with a real danger of mid-air collision.
Pressing on to his target, Reid released the bombs, then set course for home. On the way back to Syerston, he saw the searchlights of RAF Shipdham, a USAAF-operated base in Norfolk.
Despite being wounded and suffering from loss of blood, Reid succeeded in landing his plane - though the undercarriage collapsed and the aircraft slid along the runway. The wireless operator died in Shipdham's medical centre but the rest of the crew survived.
He was awarded the VC on 14 December 1943. The citation reads:
Air Ministry, 14th December, 1943.
The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:
Acting Flight Lieutenant William REID (124438), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 61 Squadron.
On the night of November 3rd, 1943, Flight Lieutenant Reid was pilot and captain of a Lancaster aircraft detailed to attack Dusseldorf.
Shortly after crossing the Dutch coast, the pilot's windscreen was shattered by fire from a Messerschmitt 110. Owing to a failure in the heating circuit, the rear gunner's hands were too cold for him to open fire immediately or to operate his microphone and so give warning of danger; but after a brief delay he managed to return the Messerschmitt's fire and it was driven off.
During the fight with the Messerschmitt, Flight Lieutenant Reid was wounded in the head, shoulders and hands. The elevator trimming tabs of the aircraft were damaged and it became difficult to control. The rear turret, too, was badly damaged and the communications system and compasses were put out of action. Flight Lieutenant Reid ascertained that his crew were unscathed and, saying nothing about his own injuries, he continued his mission.
Soon afterwards, the Lancaster was attacked by a Focke Wulf 190. This time, the enemy's fire raked the bomber from stem to stern. The rear gunner replied with his only serviceable gun but the state of his turret made accurate aiming impossible. The navigator was killed and the wireless operator fatally injured. The mid-upper turret was hit and the oxygen system put out of action. Flight Lieutenant Reid was again wounded and the flight engineer, though hit in the forearm, supplied him with oxygen from a portable supply.
Flight Lieutenant Reid refused to be turned from his objective and Dusseldorf was reached some 50 minutes later. He had memorised his course to the target and had continued in such a normal manner that the bomb-aimer, who was cut off by the failure of the communications system, knew nothing of his captain's injuries or of the casualties to his comrades. Photographs show that, when the bombs were released, the aircraft was right over the centre of the target.
Steering by the pole star and the moon, Flight Lieutenant Reid then set course for home. He was growing weak from loss of blood. The emergency oxygen supply had given out. With the windscreen shattered, the cold was intense. He lapsed into semiconsciousness. The flight engineer, with some help from the bomb-aimer, kept the Lancaster in the air despite heavy anti-aircraft fire over the Dutch coast.
The North Sea crossing was accomplished. An airfield was sighted. The captain revived, resumed control and made ready to land. Ground mist partially obscured the runway lights. The captain was also much bothered by blood from his head wound getting into his eyes. But he made a safe landing although one leg of the damaged undercarriage collapsed when the load came on.
Wounded in two attacks, without oxygen, suffering severely from cold, his navigator dead, his wireless operator fatally wounded, his aircraft crippled and defenceless, Flight Lieutenant Reid showed superb courage and leadership in penetrating a further 200 miles into enemy territory to attack one of the most strongly defended targets in Germany, every additional mile increasing the hazards of the long and perilous journey home. His tenacity and devotion to duty were beyond praise
Scottish Victoria Cross FDC signed Reid VC and Cruickshank VC
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