Major Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn VC was educated atFettes College. He joined the Gordon Highlanders in India in 1891. He saw active service with the Chitral Relief Force (1895) and the Tirah Expedition (1897). He was promoted to Captain in 1899.
During the South African War (Boer War), Meiklejohn won his VC for his actions at the Battle of Elandslaagte on 21 October 1899. His citation from The London Gazette (issue 27212 of 20 July 1900) reads:
“At the Battle of Elandslaagte, on the 21st October, 1899, after the main Boer position had been captured, some of the men of the Gordon Highlanders, when about to advance, were exposed to a heavy cross-fire and, having lost their leaders, commenced to waver. Seeing this, Captain Meiklejohn rushed to the front and called on the Gordons to follow him. By his conspicuous bravery and fearless example, he rallied the men and led them against the enemy’s position where he fell, desperately wounded in four places.”
Owing to the severity of his wounds, Meiklejohn’s right arm was amputated.
Meiklejohn went on to become a very efficient Staff Officer. He moved to the War Office in 1909 working in the department of the Director of Military Training. He later achieved the rank of Major.
Major Meiklejohn died on 4 July 1913 following a fall from his horse in Hyde Park. His horse was startled by the salute during an OTC inspection and galloped away towards a group of children. To avoid them, Meiklejohn turned his horse against the railings of Rotten Row. He was thrown off and never regained consciousness. The Times reported it as an act of heroic self-sacrifice.
Major Meiklejohn was buried with full military honours. The first part of the service was held in the private chapel of the Middlesex Hospital, where he died. A military procession to the Necropolis station followed, whilst at Brookwood a short service took place in the cemetery chapel before the burial took place.
A plaque was placed on the wall of Knightsbridge Barracks with the details of the incident along with the words “He gave his life to save others”. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen.
Louis Creswicke: South Africa and the Transvaal War Vol. 2, Chapter 1
Arthur Conan Doyle: The Great Boer War, Chapter 6 Elandslaagte and Rietfontein