Party time for Nancy
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.