HE was the Glasgow beat bobby who became one of Britain's greatest heroes of the First World War.

John McAulay was born on December 1889 in the Stirlingshire mining village of Plean.

Like many young men of his age and generation he got a job down the mines when he left school.

He was a powerful man with ‘hands like shovels’ and the heavy work kept him fit.

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Realising that there was more to life than mining, McAulay joined the City of Glasgow Police in February 1911 at the age of 22.

He soon made a name for himself as a dedicated officer who was good to have by your side when things got rough.

At this time Constable McAulay took up wrestling, winning many trophies.

Once he fought the heavyweight champion of England Jack Douglas at the Olympia Picture House in Stirling.

Douglas was two inches taller and two stone heavier than his opponent, but McAulay delighted the crowd by winning the bout and prizes of £25 and a silver belt.

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The First World War broke out in August 1914 and like thousands of young men of that era his life would never be the same again.

Within the first few months, more than 300 fellow Glasgow police officers had joined the armed services.

Constable McAulay was one of the first to enlist.

Like many police officers of the time he joined the Scots Guards.

By the end of the year he had shown his prowess in battle and as leader.

As a result, he had been promoted to Lance Corporal by impressed senior officers.

McAulay and his comrades were thrown into some of the fiercest conflicts of the war, including the Battle of Ypres in France in July 1916.

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Now a sergeant, McAulay was to win his first medal at Ypres when he showed exceptional courage in battle. He had already been mentioned in despatches for his bravery, which were signed by then Minister for War, Winston Churchill.

At Ypres he was faced with fire from a number of snipers, one of whom killed his commanding officer. In response McAulay killed several of the German enemy single-handed and took command of his platoon.

For this he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal – DCM.

But it was on November 27, 1917, during the Battle of Cambrai, that Sgt McAulay performed an amazing feat of heroism that was to earn him Britain’s highest honour for valour in the face of the enemy – The Victoria Cross.

On the eighth day of battle German troops were defending the village of Fontaine Notre Dame.

The 1st Battalion Scots Guard were entrenched, awaiting the support of British tanks so they could take the village from the enemy.

The tanks did not arrive and the order was given to advance without this vital support.

As a result, Scots Guards soldiers of all ages were killed in a hail of German machine gun fire.

Undeterred by the terrifying slaughter McAulay drove on, clearing out enemy positions.

His company commander, Lieutenant Arthur Kinnaird MC, was one of the first to be hit by the machine gun fire.

A bullet struck him in his leg and a second in his back.

McAulay reached the stricken officer, lifted him onto his shoulders and carried him a quarter of a mile to safety.

On two occasions exploding German shells knocked him to the ground.

But he got back on to his feet only to be met by two gun toting German soldiers.

He killed both of them with the Lieutenant's handgun and continued back to the trenches with the dying officer on his shoulders.

As two other officers had also been injured he assumed command and led them back into battle.

He then killed more than 50 Germans with a machine gun, as the young Scots soldiers repelled the attack.

After the battle, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Victor MacKenzie, Sergeant McAulay’s commanding officer, recommended him for a VC.

On January 13, 1918, he was informed that he had been awarded Britain’s highest bravery award.

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The official notice announcing the award of the Victoria Cross read: "For most conspicuous bravery and initiative in attack. When all the officers had become casualties, Sgt McAulay assumed command of the company and under shell and machine gun fire successfully held and consolidated the objective gained.

"He reorganised the company, cheered on and encouraged the men and under heavy fire at close quarters showed utter disregard for danger.

"Noticing a counterattack developing on his exposed left flank, he successfully repulsed it by the skilful and bold use of machine guns, aided by two men only and causing heavy enemy casualties.

"Sgt McAulay also carried his company commander, who was mortally wounded, a long distance to a place of safety under very heavy fire.

"Twice he was knocked down by the concussion of a bursting shell but nothing daunted him and he continued on his way until his objective was reached, killing two of the enemy who endeavoured to intercept him.

"Throughout the day, this very gallant non-commissioned officer displayed the highest tactical skill and coolness under exceptionally trying circumstances."

The Glasgow cop was immediately brought back from France to a hero’s welcome and some well-deserved leave.

Two months later he was presented with his medal by King George V at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

He was the first and to this date the only Scottish police officer to win the ultimate bravery decoration.

The news of his heroism made him a national hero and boosted public morale particularly back in Glasgow. He was also given a hero’s welcome in his home village of Plean.

A procession led by the colliery band and an array of local dignitaries marched with him to the local hall.

There McAulay received the congratulations of the Duke of Montrose who presented him with a gold watch and a packet of war bonds.

The sergeant thanked him for the gift and added: "Out there, I was only trying to do my little bit. What I did was only my duty."

At the time a Plean man who had served with him in France said of his bravery in battle: "He has won the VC not once but many times."

In February 1918, a poem was written about McAulay’s bravery by the Ayrshire poet Matthew Anderson, titled simply John McAulay VC.

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Despite his heroics it would be almost a year before McAulay would return to his police duties, when he was demobbed from the army on January 25, 1919.

Long after the war had ended his bravery continued to be recognised.

In November 1921, a memorial, bearing the names of the 173 Glasgow police officers who were killed or missing in battle was unveiled in Glasgow Cathedral. Sergeant McAulay, representing the force, laid a wreath.

The officers and men of the force then marched from the cathedral to the Central police office in Turnbull Street in the Saltmarket.

An exact replica of the cathedral memorial was unveiled on the wall of the police office, within the quadrangle.

This memorial is now in the Glasgow Police Museum in Bell Street along with his bravery despatches signed by Winston Churchill.

In 1929, McAulay attended a VC Dinner hosted by the Prince of Wales in the House of Lords, and in 1935 he was awarded the King’s Silver Jubilee Medal. Two years later he received a Coronation Medal.

McAulay rose to the rank of inspector in the City of Glasgow Police before retirement in 1946 after 35 years' service.

He died at his home in Aikenhead Road on 14 January 1956 aged 67 and was buried in New Eastwood Cemetery. There is however some mystery surrounding his personal life which may have been as colourful as his military service.

Official records show that he married Catherine Thomson in April 1918 on leave from the army.

Though he may have been married more than once.

It's also thought he had a son to one woman who was later adopted.

McAulay's Victoria Cross is displayed in the Scots Guards Regimental Museum in London and his picture proudly hangs on the wall of Plean Library. McAulay’s gripping story is also told in the Glasgow Police Museum where a display is specially dedicated to him.

In a recent interview, museum curator Alastair Dinsmor said: “We tell his story to visitors every day. He was the only Scottish police officer to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

“John’s was an amazing accomplishment.

"He put himself through mortal danger. It’s right that we honour him.”