MICHAEL HARGREAVE MAWSON
GREAT-GREAT-NEPHEW OF PERCY CLIVE MP
Percy Clive was the Liberal Unionist MP for Ross and had fought during the Boer War, where he was wounded. During WWI he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Grenadier Guards, was twice mentioned in despatches and decorated several times. Clive was killed in action at Bucquoy on 5 April 1918. His greatgreat-nephew Michael Hargreave Mawson is a respected historian of the Crimean War.
What are your thoughts on Led By Lions?
I think it’s a wonderful idea. The phrase
“lions led by donkeys” actually dates back to the Crimean War. Outside the walls of Sevastopol a Russian sergeant said to his English counterpart, “Your men are like lions but your officers are donkeys,” and practically every officer in the war wrote this down and sent it home in a letter. How true the phrase was in the Crimea is open to debate but clearly Neil [Thornton] has proven that in the First World War it was rubbish. The men were indeed ‘lions’.
What kind of soldier was Percy Clive?
Percy was killed in action in an extraordinary act of gallantry, which was only one of a series that he had performed during WWI. Practically everybody seems to think he was awarded the DSO [Distinguished Service Order], but he wasn’t, and Neil Thornton has tracked this down and proved it. However, it goes to show the way he conducted himself and the scrapes he got into that people came to the conclusion that he must have had a DSO!
How important is that stories like Percy Clive’s are remembered?
Percy had a son who went on to be killed in the Western Desert during the Second World War, which led to that side of the family dying out. Ultimately, these deaths led to the end of that entire family.
I think it’s very important that everybody’s story is remembered, particularly when we’re in the political state we’re in now. We’re inches away from leaving the European Union that has provided us with a peaceful continent for 70 years. I have been reading a lot of WWI military history books over the last couple of years in the context of the centenary anniversaries, but the thought of war is becoming conceivable again as we leave the EU. Our exit from the EU could mean that it breaks up and causes new national tensions to arise. It’s a terrifying time now to look back at what a European war means. It’s not actually ancient history and could be tomorrow’s news.
What can the example of leadership provided by the fallen MPS and sons of WWI teach sitting members of the Commons?
The chances are that in the same circumstances today’s House would react in the same way. I don’t think there’s an absence of leadership in our current MPS and I don’t think they need to be taught how to stand up and be counted. But it is always well to look back and say, “These are your peers. These are the exemplars you should be following.” However, I don’t think we have any pusillanimous MPS or any cowards in the House; they stand up for what they believe in. Jo Cox didn’t serve on a front line in a trench but she was out there and she died for what she felt was right.
“EVERYBODY SEEMS TO THINK HE WAS AWARDED THE DSO, BUT HE WASN’T, AND NEIL THORNTON HAS TRACKED THIS DOWN AND PROVED IT”
A depiction of the fighting at Bucquoy, where Percy Clive MP was killed in action in April 1918
Contrary to belief, Percy
Clive did not receive the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) but was awarded the Légion d’honneur and Croix de Guerre by the French
Led by Lions. MPS and Sons Who Fell in the First World War by neil Thornton is published by fonthill Media. for a review turn to page 88.