Alloa soldier's war heroics kept secret for 50 years
A SOLDIER who fought with the Canadian army in the First World War has been awarded his war medals - 57 years after his death.
John McClelland, who lived in Alloa until his death 1955, was in the 240th Battalian of the Canadian Expeditionary Force providing re-enforcements for the Canadian railway troops.
Twice he crossed the Atlantic to fight in France, even lying about his age during his enlistment.
But his colourful past remained a secret from his family for 50 years since his death.
It was only after his great-grandson Robert McClelland (49), of Stirling, a chief engineer in the merchant navy, was researching his family history that John's actions came to light.
He said, "A lot of families hear rumours about their forebearers. Someone was saying to me that we owned a haulage company in Hamilton. I decided to look into it and from there I found out my great-grandfather fought for the Canadians in the First World War."
Born in Blantyre in 1875, John enlisted in the Highland Light Infantry and fought during the Boer War.
He was later discharged from the army but while Robert was canvassing records and attestations (enlistment applications) he came across an interesting find.
He said, "The British army wouldn't take him because they said he was unfit and too old to fight for them. Somehow he ended up in Canada living in Montreal and joined the Canadian army.
"He managed to fool them into letting him join by lying about his age. On the attestation he said he was 38 when he was really 42."
But that wasn't all he found. Robert's uncle Henry McClelland, chairman of the Clackmannanshire Royal British Legion, explained, "He went over to France twice. He was discharged but joined another regiment. He was desperate to get back there. His son was in the British army and he was trying to find him. I don't think he realised just how big a country France was and the devastation that had been caused by the war."
In January 1918 John was injured and discharged. He was sent back to Canada where he lived with his wife and children until 1921 when he returned to Scotland.
The family set up home in Alloa and John started a small haulage firm in Riccarton, Clackmannan. He died, aged 79, in 1955 in Wallace Street, Alloa.
With no medals or headstone to his name, Robert contacted the Canadian embassy and - with the help of Stirling MP Anne McGuire - managed to secure the British War Medal and Victory Medal, as well as a headstone in Sunnyside Cemetery recognising his time fighting in France.
This article appeared in Alloa & Hillfoots Advertiser 02 May 12
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May 10, 03:02
couldnt believe it when i saw this,when i was about 13 or 14 i visited this grave as it used to be on its own and took him flowers for years.i have a picture of the stone on my phone and visited him just last week.he is always with me and at my side.glad he has found family.
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May 11, 00:26
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