James Huffam VC - Ian Ballance 9 Aug @ 18.00

Thu 9th August 2018 at 18.00 - 20.30

James Huffam VC - Ian Ballance 9 Aug @ 18.00

James Huffam VC -  Ian Ballance 9 Aug @ 18.00


A ceremony on 31st August in Dunblane will recognise the achievement of James Huffam, the only person born in Dunblane to be awarded a Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery.  Ian Ballance spoke to the Club about James Huffam on Thursday, noting that the ceremony will take place almost exactly a hundred years to the day after the actions by Huffman that resulted in the award of the VC. “It will”, he said, “be a fitting memorial for a soldier of whom Dunblane can be proud.” 

Huffman was born in Dunblane in 1897 in one of the houses facing the railway station.  He was the youngest of four sons and had three sisters.  His father was an ex-colour sergeant in the Black Watch.  While Huffman was still young, the family moved to Berwick, where he went to school and then became an apprentice joiner.  In February 1915, he followed the example of his three brothers who had already enlisted.  Theirs was to be a tragic story, typical of many families at the time.  His eldest brother was wounded, and subsequently died after a long hospitalization.  The second brother was gassed, being invalided out and subsequently dying in 1937.  The third brother was killed in France in 1915.  

James was promoted to sergeant in May 1916 and later recommended for a commission.  In January 1918, at the age of 20, James was gazetted as 2nd Lieutenant and sent to France to join 5th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment. In August, during the Allied forces’ advance begun at the battle of Amiens, he was in the front line.  With three men, he rushed an enemy machine-gun post and put it out of action. His position was then heavily attacked and he withdrew, carrying back a wounded comrade. Again, in the night, accompanied by two men only, he rushed an enemy machine-gun, capturing eight prisoners and enabling the advance to continue. It was for this action of conspicuous gallantry that he was awarded the VC.

After the war, he was promoted to lieutenant and served for a time in India with 1/9th Gurkha Rifles, and in Sierra Leone with the Royal West African Frontier Force.  During this period he was promoted to Captain.  Being the holder of a pilot’s licence, he then was seconded to the relatively newly established Royal Air Force where he served for four years.  It was not an altogether successful experience for him, with a number of crash landings, all of which he was lucky to survive.  Returning to the army, he served until 1938, when he retired with the rank of Major.  However, it was to be a short retirement: after the outbreak of war in 1939 re-enlisted. He saw action again during the Second World War, serving as Assistant Provost Marshal in France in 1940, and taking part in the Normandy D-Day landings on 6th June 1944. He retired for the second time in 1945 and died in 1968.

Speaker’s Host, David Mackie, thanked Ian Ballance for his very informative talk.  Members had clearly been very engaged by the story of James Huffam and were pleased to join with David in thanking Ian.