Quest launched to trace Jedburgh war hero’s family

Royal British Legion area chairman Shaun Carroll with the Jedburgh branch's tribute to Sergeant John Daykins VC.
Royal British Legion area chairman Shaun Carroll with the Jedburgh branch's tribute to Sergeant John Daykins VC.

A quest to find the descendants of a Borders soldier being posthumously honoured in Jedburgh has been launched by the town’s Royal British Legion Scotland branch.

Sergeant John Daykins is one of seven Victoria Cross recipients from the Borders being honoured as part of the UK Government’s First World War centenary campaign, launched in 2014.

Jedburgh's Sergeant John Daykins VC.

Jedburgh's Sergeant John Daykins VC.

The project, providing 469 commemorative paving stonesat the birthplaces of the country’s Victoria Cross recipients, ends this year.

Before Sgt Daykins’ stone is laid, an appeal is being launched to find any surviving family members in the hope they can be involved in the commemorations.

Shaun Carroll, the legion’s Jedburgh branch chairman, said: “We know he had two brothers and a sister, but he didn’t have any children of his own.

“The commemorative flagstone is going to be an important milestone in celebrating Daykins’ bravery and actions, but as far as we know none of his relatives remain in the area.”

Daykins was born on March, 28, 1883 at Ormiston Farm, near Bonchester Bridge, the eldest son of John and Bessie but was brought up in Jedburgh and schooled there from 1889 to 1896 before working on the farm with his father and uncle.

In September 1916, he enlisted with the Lothians and Border Horse A Squadron and saw service in France, Greece and Belgium before being struck down with trench fever and discharged in September 1916. He later re-enlisted with the York and Lancaster Regiment and returned to Flanders in the spring of 1917.

In October of that year that he earned his VC at Solesmes, near Cambrai in France, when his hand-to-hand fighting while under enemy fire helped him take 25 prisoners and an enemy machine gun.

He died, having never married, in January 1933 after a shotgun accident at his farm.

Daykins is buried in the family plot at Castlewood Cemetery.

Shaun added: “The town held a reception in his honour in 1919 and Daykins and his family were brought to the town hall in horse and carriages.

“When he reached the burgh boundar, Daykins was met by the provost and town council and soldiers took the place of the horses and carried his carriage shoulder high all the way to the reception where he was awarded the freedom of the burgh such was the regard Daykins was held in by the town.”

Daykins said at the time: “When I was told that the bit of work which I had got the chance to do for our country had been considered worthy of recognition, my first thought was ‘this will be something for Jedburgh’.

“My thoughts went homeward to you amongst whom I had lived, and I couldn’t help feeling a bit of pride in that I had been the means of bringing some little distinction to the town we all love so well.”

Daykins’ medals were passed to his sister Elizabeth Swanson and are now held in the regimental museum at Endcliffe Hall in Sheffield.

The guns he captured at Solesmes were presented to Jedburgh and mounted at the castle jail until 1940, when they were melted down for the country’s Second World War effort.

Anyone with any information can contact Shaun on 07768 253662.