Family pays tribute to their humble hero, James McLaurin

BRAVE: The efforts of Holbrook's James McLaurin on the Western Front are still a source of inspiration for his family, a century later.

BRAVE: The efforts of Holbrook's James McLaurin on the Western Front are still a source of inspiration for his family, a century later.

A SMALL crucifix is a reminder for Nano Mackinlay of the big brave stand her father undertook 100 years ago.

On September 16, 1917 Sergeant James McLaurin found himself on the Western Front and before the day finished his courage would be undoubted.

Under a barrage of enemy artillery fire near the Menin Road, the derring-do of the farmer from north of Holbrook proved worthy of a Military Medal for bravery.

In four instances Sergeant McLaurin overcame serious personal danger to extinguish fires and save ammunition and damage to guns.

“He behaved with great gallantry and set an excellent example to his detachment,” his medal citation read.

Sergeant McLaurin’s nerve was further demonstrated on August 22, 1918, when he again defied heavy shelling in France and shepherded men to safety. That audacity saw him awarded a Bar to the Military Medal.

Robbie Mackinlay

Robbie Mackinlay

After returning home to his wife Ruby and their property named Mirrabooka after the Southern Cross, Sergeant McLaurin did not reflect on the horrors he had witnessed.

Mrs Mackinlay, 87, his last surviving of four children, said it was only decades after her father’s death in 1961 that the family discovered the magnitude of his bravery.

Her son, cricket administrator and radio football commentator Robbie Mackinlay, became captivated by his Poppy.

“It wasn’t until Robbie did a bit of scrounging around that we found out,” Mrs Mackinlay said.

“He must have been an incredibly brave soldier, you don’t get two medals on the Western Front for nothing.”

Mackinlay described his Poppy as an “inspiration and a hero to me in life”.

At the crease, Mackinlay would have a reminder of his Poppy in his hands with his grandfather’s service number 7417 penned on the shoulder of his bat.

He's inspiration and a hero to me in life

Robbie Mackinlay

But the most tangible legacy of Sergeant McLaurin is the crucifix gifted to him by a Belgian family he protected.

“I never drive in the car without it,” Mrs Mackinlay said. “I have given it to Robbie for luck when’s he gone out batting.”

Mrs Mackinlay, who turns 88 on Tuesday, still lives at Mirrabooka, which covers 20 hectares compared to the 607 hectares farmed by her father.