Mum told of son’s brav­ery

Art stu­dent who bat­tled to the end

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Marc McLean

A Ruther­glen mum left heart­bro­ken by her son’s death in WWI later re­ceived word from army high com­mand about how he “died fight­ing mag­nif­i­cently” while serv­ing his coun­try.

Mrs McLean, of 65 Green­hill Road in Ruther­glen, re­ceived of­fi­cial in­ti­ma­tion that her son Lieu­tenant Wil­liam Wood McLean was killed in ac­tion in France on Septem­ber 23, 1918.

The 26-year-old, who served with the Ar­gyll and Suther­land High­landers, had been awarded the Mil­i­tary Cross a year ear­lier for a dar­ing mis­sion.

Wil­liam was the sec­ond son of the late John McLean and Mrs McLean, and he also left be­hind a wife at 4 Al­bany Street, North Kelvin­side, Glas­gow.

Lieu­tenant McLean’s rel­a­tives re­ceived a num­ber of sym­pa­thetic mes­sages from friends and brother of­fi­cers of his reg­i­ment.

One of these in­cluded a let­ter from a com­mand­ing of­fi­cer in the Ar­gyll and Suther­land High­landers which praised the sol­dier for his brav­ery.

The let­ter was pub­lished in the Ruther­glen Re­former on Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 11, 1918 – ex­actly 100 years ago. It reads: “Your son had done re­ally mag­nif­i­cent work on the night of 23rd.

“With about 20 men he took over 40 pris­on­ers and then went on and cap­tured a post which was his ob­jec­tive.

“Later we were driven out on the right – your son and his men be­ing on the ex­treme left – and though he fought most gal­lantly and drove off sev­eral at­tacks from front and left, he was fi­nally at­tacked from the rear and com­pletely cut off.

“On 30th we ad­vanced and oc­cu­pied the same ground and we re­cov­ered his body and those of sev­eral of his party. He ap­peared to have been killed in­stan­ta­neously by a heavy burst of ma­chine-gun fire.

“He was buried with three other of­fi­cers of the bat­tal­ion in a lit­tle ceme­tery which is now well be­hind the front line.

“By his death the bat­tal­ion has lost a most ef­fi­cient and pop­u­lar of­fi­cer and who could ill be spared.

“In your great sor­row I would of­fer you the sin­cere sym­pa­thy of my­self and all the other of­fi­cers and the knowl­edge that he died fight­ing mag­nif­i­cently must also be some con­so­la­tion.

“Yours very truly, Ian M Camp­bell, Lieut Colonel, Com­mand­ing 2nd, Ar­gyll and Suther­land High­landers.”

When war broke out in 1914, Wil­liam was an art stu­dent at Glas­gow Univer­sity.

He en­listed in Au­gust 1915 and re­ceived his com­mis­sion in the Ar­gyll and Suther­land High­landers that Septem­ber.

Two years later, Lieu­tenant McLean was awarded the Mil­i­tary Cross for his cru­cial ef­forts to­wards restor­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the front line on the French bat­tle­fields.

The lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion had been sev­ered due to heavy shell fire and Lieu­tenant McLean rushed through the bar­rage on two oc­ca­sions to re­lay im­por­tant mes­sages to the front line.

Ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice Ruther­glen man Lieu­tenant Wil­liam Wood McLean was killed in ac­tion in France on Septem­ber 23, 1918.

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