Party time for Nancy

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A 97-year- old Wishaw war veteran who died ex­actly a year ago will fi­nally be laid to rest to­mor­row with full mil­i­tary hon­ours.

For­mer pris­oner of war Wil­liam McLel­land, who had no known fam­ily, passed away in his Heath­field flat on Fe­bru­ary 7 last year. When ex­haus­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tions failed to find any liv­ing rel­a­tives, Glas­gow funeral di­rec­tors An­der­son Maguire stepped in to en­sure World War Two Scots Guards sol­dier Wil­liam is given a send-off be­fit­ting his ser­vice to his coun­try. Funeral ar­ranger Martha McNaught , who says the McLel­lands have a lair at Larkhall Ceme­tery, said: “When we were asked to ar­range Mr McLel­land’s funeral, I re­alised that he was a World War Two veteran and I was keen to en­sure that he was laid to rest in a man­ner which would hon­our him.

“I con­tacted the Scots Guards who con­firmed that Mr McLel­land had served.

“As a com­pany, we are hum­bled and hon­oured to have ar­ranged a funeral ser­vice which will pay fit­ting trib­ute to Mr McLel­land’s ser­vice to his coun­try.”

Al­though hav­ing no lo­cal fam­ily, Wil­liam is re­mem­bered fondly and with the great­est re­spect by Heath­field neigh­bour Rab Ste­wart.

“He was a pure gen­tle­man and a real char­ac­ter who liked a blether,” said Rab, who got to know Wil­lie dur­ing a bad win­ter around 10 years ago when he and other neigh­bours ral­lied to help dig stranded mo­torists out of the snow.

“I liked mo­tors and he liked mo­tors. He drove right up un­til the age of 94 when it was sug­gested that it

We are hum­bled and hon­oured to help out

might not be a good idea to drive any more. He was gut­ted at that.

“They took his mo­tor away from him and that broke his heart. So, he got an elec­tric scooter and joked that he could only get it up to eight miles an hour.

“He was al­ways mo­bile. He was a very fit man who would never pass you in the street. He would walk to Wishaw and back with his shop­ping well into his 90s. He was a re­ally nice old fella, old school.

“You don’t get many like him nowa­days.”

Five years ago an Ital­ian fam­ily who wanted to ex­press their grat­i­tude, came to Wishaw in the search for Guards­man Wil­lie, who had served along­side their par­ents dur­ing the re­sis­tance.

Rab said: “Wil­lie was not one of those peo­ple who spoke about the war or what he had done in it.

“He must have been a strap­ping big fella when he was a young man. He was over 6ft and had hand­some, rugged fea­tures. He’d go out of his way to help any­body.

“You meet many char­ac­ters in your life but oc­ca­sion­ally you meet some­one who makes a wee bit of an in­den­ta­tion and you re­mem­ber them for all the right rea­sons – for their per­son­al­ity and their kind­ness – and Wil­lie was full of both.

“He al­ways had a smile on his face. He was po­litely spo­ken, mod­est and didn’t seek praise.”

Rab, 59, will be among those who turn out from all over the UK at Holy­town Cre­ma­to­rium to­mor­row at noon to pay their re­spects.

In a full mil­i­tary funeral, Wil­liam’s cof­fin will be draped in a Union flag.

A Scots Guards piper will play a lament, mem­bers of the Scots Guards and the Reg­i­men­tal As­so­ci­a­tion will be on pa­rade and serv­ing mem­bers of the Scots Guards will be pall bear­ers.

“I think it is ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic what the bat­tal­ion are do­ing for him,” said Rab, who didn’t ever see fam­ily com­ing and go­ing from Wil­lie’s Heath­field home.

“If ever there was a man who de­serves some­body to re­mem­ber him, it would be old Wil­lie. He would have been hum­bled.”

Neil Crocket, sec­re­tary of the Fife branch of the Scots Guards As­so­ci­a­tion, has been closely in­volved in ar­range­ments for to­mor­row’s ser­vice.

He said: “The Scots Guards prides it­self on be­ing a fam­ily Reg­i­ment and the ethos ‘Once a Guards­man al­ways a Guards­man’ is at the heart of the reg­i­ment.

“The cir­cum­stances of Wil­liam’s ser­vice his­tory, along­side the sad cir­cum­stances of hav­ing no fam­ily, makes it a poignant oc­ca­sion.

“We have ad­ver­tised the funeral across our as­so­ci­a­tion and Royal Bri­tish Le­gion Scot­land and we are look­ing for a turnout in num­bers.”

Wil­liam, known in Wishaw as Wil­lie, was born in Larkhall on May 30, 1919.

It is un­der­stood he was a miner be­fore and after his Scots Guards ser­vice.

Mr McLel­land en­listed with the Scots Guards at Mother­well on 24 Oc­to­ber 1939.

After re­cruit train­ing at Chelsea Bar­racks in Lon­don, he served on active ser­vice in Egypt where he joined 2nd Bat­tal­ion Scots Guards in Jan­uary 1940 and was dis­patched to the desert in April 1941.

The bat­tal­ion fought in abortive at­tacks against the Ger­mans un­til Novem­ber 1941, when it was re-or­gan­ised as a mo­tor bat­tal­ion.

The 2nd Bat­tal­ion took part in a fiercely con­tested Bri­tish Ad­vance, which re­lieved To­bruk and drove the Ger­mans back to Aghe­lia.

Later, the bat­tal­ion had to with­draw hastily to the Gazala Line when the Ger­mans, un­der Gen­eral Rom­mel, ad­vanced in Jan­uary 1942.

In the bat­tle of Gazala in June 1942, 2nd Bat­tal­ion Scots Guards de­fended Rigel Ridge, north west of the strong point of Knights­bridge.

On the morn­ing of June 13, 1942, time passed ex­cep­tion­ally qui­etly as the bat­tal­ion waited on its exposed ridge.

It suf­fered heav­ily when com­pa­nies and anti– tank pla­toons were over­run by tanks of the German 21st Panzer Divi­sion.

Bat­tal­ion records show that many men were taken pris­oner.

It was es­ti­mated that the Bat­tal­ion ca­su­al­ties were com­pa­ra­ble to a First World War bat­tle.

G u a rds­man Wi l l i a m McLel­land was re­ported miss­ing that day and later con­firmed as a pris­oner of war.

He was held in Italy for two years and 130 days un­til he was repa­tri­ated to the UK in Oc­to­ber 1944.

Dur­ing Wil­liam’s ser­vice, 2nd Bat­tal­ion Scots Guards took part in ac­tions in North Africa, Hal­faya, Sidi Suleiman and Knights­bridge.

Gazala is a main Bat­tle Hon­our which is borne on the Colours of the Reg­i­ment.

Wil­liam was dis­charged from the Scots Guards on June 9, 1946.

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