TO THE PRAISE OF GOD AND IN GLORIOUS MEMORY OF CAPT. WAN MACLEAN, RAMC, DSO, MC and BAR
LT. ALEC MACLEAN, RE
LT. FRANK MACLEAN ABBOTT, RN
SUB LT. HECTOR MACLEAN, RN
THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE
THE STORY OF THE MACLEAN FAMILY
It begins in 1843, when at the age of 16 Henry John Maclean was appointed Ensign to the Rifle Brigade. He took part in the Ashanti Wars (Ghana) and in the Crimean War as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was promoted Major General in 1884.
The General, now retired, moved from Burton, Ross, Herefordshire to Halesend, Cradley, around 1890. In 1891 his household consisted of Frances his wife aged 37; his daughters Nellie and Frances aged 21 and 11; his sons Henry, Ivan and Alec, aged 14,9 and 6; a governess, cook, parlourmaid, two housemaids and a coachman. The General had four children by his first wife: George, Thomas, Mary and Nellie all of whom had Buchanan as their second name.
On August 12, 1891, Nellie married Colpoys Abbott, son of Admiral Abbott from Ryde, Isle of Wight, in Cradley Church.
On August 12, 1895, Henry, aged 19, died and was buried in Cradley churchyard.
There is a paragraph in the September 1895 issue of the Cradley Parish Magazine expressing deep sympathy with General and Mrs. Maclean and their family in their great sorrow which was universally felt by all who knew them. Then in the November issue of the magazine there is a note to say that Mrs. Maclean with great regret felt unable to host the Mothers' Meeting at Halesend this year. This I think shows that the family did involve themselves in village affairs.
In 1896, George Buchanan Maclean, a son of the General's first wife, joined them at Halesend, and on June 4 married Emily Matilda, widow, but formerly a Forbes, in Cradley Church. It is interesting to note that it appears to have been the custom at the time to use the wife's maiden name as the second Christian name, hence George and Nellie were both given Buchanan as their second name. whereas the other four younger children all had Clarkson as their second name.
The family left Halesend around 190 1/02 and we lose track of them until the death of the General in Kent on January 7, 1915, at the age of 87. His widow Frances returned to Herefordshire and is recorded as living at 4 Castle Street, Hereford, until her death on April 9, 1924, aged 70.
We come now to the deaths of the four men recorded on the Memorial:
ABBOTT, Frank Maclean, of HMS SURPRISE, Lieutenant RN, died December 23 1917, at sea on active service. He was the son of Colpoys and Nellie Abbott.
MACLEAN. Ivan Clarkson, Captain, Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to the Rifle Brigade, DSO, MC & Bar, died of wounds on April 4, 1918, whilst in enemy hands.
MACLEAN, Alec Clarkson, Lieutenant, Royal Engineers, died April 9, 1918, in France.
On August 12,1919, the Parish Council received a letter from Colonel Thurlow, Mill Bank House, on behalf of Mrs. Maclean, requesting permission to erect a memorial on the village green in memory of her two sons and two grandsons killed in the war. The Council decided to forward the letter to the Rural District Council for their decision and expressed themselves in favour. (Carried).
MACLEAN, Hector Forbes, was killed in action at Kronstadt Harbour, Russia, on August 18,1919. His name is also recorded on the Naval Memorial at Plymouth. He was the second son of George and Emily Maclean.
On October 7, 1919, the minutes of the Parish Council record that the question of the erection of the Maclean memorial on the village green was fully discussed. It was agreed that Mrs. Maclean's request to erect a memorial cross be granted.
From the foregoing we can see that Mrs. Maclean lost three sons and two step-grandsons during her lifetime.
The story continues and we begin by filling in one or two gaps and bringing it up to date. The General's first wife was Anne Parkes Buchanan of Wellshot, Cambuslang. She died in Aden in 1871. He married his second wife, Frances Clarkson of Marrington Hall, Chirbury, Shropshire, in 1875. You will recall that George Buchanan Maclean, later to become a Major, who was the General's eldest son, married Emily Matilda, widow but formerly a Forbes, here in Cradley Church. He had two sons, Brigadier Gordon Forbes Maclean (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) and Sub. Lt Hector Forbes Maclean, whose name is on the memorial. Brigadier Maclean's son is the Revd. Kenneth Maclean, now living in Shrewsbury. Before taking Holy Orders he served in his father's Regiment. He has two sons, John who served with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards for seven years before joining the West Mercia Yeomanry with whom he is currently serving, and Roderick who served with the 15/19 Hussars before taking up a civilian post.
When the British Legion initiated this inquiry we set ourselves two objectives: to find out as much as possible about the family and why they chose Cradley for a memorial to their sons; and to find, if possible, a living relative of the family. This I believe we have achieved. As to choosing Cradley, we know they loved it and only moved to Kent to be near other members of the family. Frances' two sons, Ivan and Alec, spent their most formative years in the village, and the parents of Frank and Hector were married in Cradley Church.
The story would not be complete without something about how these men died.
Captain Ivan C Maclean, DSO, MC and Bar gave up a private practice in London to join the RAMC in August 1914 and had a distinguished career, being attached to the Rifle Brigade. He won the MC at Neuve Chapelle in May 1915 for tending the wounded under fire, when almost all of his aid-post were killed, and the Bar for similar work at the Battle of the Somme; and in August 1917, he got the DSO and was severely wounded at the Battle of Ypres. After making a wonderful recovery he rejoined the Rifle Brigade and went through the severe fighting from March 21 to 24,1918, when he was wounded and captured. All his comrades and friends say that he was utterly fearless under fire and absolutely self-sacrificing for others. He was also mentioned in despatches four times. (Authority The Times May 31,1918).
The London Gazette for January 9, 1918, records that the DSO was awarded to Captain Ivan C Maclean, MC for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in clearing the wounded. He took his stretcher bearers well in advance of our forward positions and behaved with the most exemplary courage and devotion throughout, sparing no efforts to collect the wounded men. After his battalion was relieved he continued to work under the heaviest fire for another twenty-four hours and was severely wounded on his way back after all the cases had been cleared. He set a splendid example of energy and contempt for danger.
The details of the other men's war service are somewhat sketchy when compared with their illustrious brother and uncle. Nevertheless their deaths were no less heroic and they died doing their duty.
Lieutenant Alec Maclean was a civil engineer before joining the Royal Engineers at the outbreak of the War. He served with 296 Railway Company Royal Engineers and was killed on April 9, 1918, whilst trying to prevent a field gun falling into enemy hands.
Frank M Abbott son of Nellie, née Maclean, was serving as a lieutenant in the destroyer HMS SURPRISE at the time of his death. HMS SURPRISE and two other destroyers were patrolling off the Dutch coast when they were torpedoed during foggy weather on the night of December 22/23, 1917. A total of 13 Officers and 180 men lost their lives. An obituary in The Times on January 9, 1918, relates that one of the captains under whom Lt Abbott served wrote of him:- "I consider Lieutenant Abbott to be an officer of exceptional coolness and resource. He was also an executive officer of great ability. He saw much fighting in The Albion in the Dardanelles and was among the landing party at Suvla Bay, where he remained for three months. He died while doing his duty and will be a great loss to the Service".
Hector Maclean was serving as a midshipman in HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN, when he volunteered to join a force of coastal motor boats (CMBs), forerunners of today's motor torpedo boats (MTBs), who were preparing to attack the Russian fleet in Kronstadt harbour. The war against Germany had ended, but the Allies were now at war with the Bolsheviks who had overthrown the Tsar in the Russian Revolution.
The Bolsheviks were intent on expanding the revolution into neighbouring Scandinavian countries and it was realised that the Russian fleet in Kronstadt harbour posed a great threat to shipping in Scandinavian waters. Rear Admiral Cowan devised a plan to destroy the Russian ships in the harbour, before they had a chance to sail, by using the CMB flotilla and three aircraft. The CMBs were based at Bjorko, a Swedish port just north of Stockholm and to which they returned in triumph after the raid. The attack was a huge success, and according to The Times on August 20, 1919 two battleships, The PETRO PAVLOSK and The ANDREI PERVOZVANNY were sunk and several other smaller ships were either sunk or seriously damaged. This daring attack must surely be on a par with all the other great historical exploits with which we are familiar, from Drake and Nelson to present day. One has only to look at the map to realise the enormity of the task given to these small boats. Kronstadt harbour was a maze of island forts and batteries, sandbanks, moles, shoals and buoys; added to this were mines and nets. The squadron had to run the gauntlet of fire from shore-based batteries, as they made their way up the Gulf of Finland and during their escape. The British lost three boats, one aircraft and thirty six men in the operation, including Midshipman Maclean who was promoted to Sub Lieutenant posthumously.
I suspect that for political reasons this amazingly daring raid is kept under wraps for fear that it may damage our mutual relationships. However, I see no reason why we should not trumpet abroad the bravery of these men, as it is unlikely that the Kremlin is on the distribution list of The Cradley Mathon and Storridge Newsletter!
IN MEMORY OF ALL THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FROM THIS PARISH
AND WHOSE NAMES ARE ON THE TABLET IN THE CHURCH
LT R PEEL CORBIN WORCS REGT
CPL H LANE RIFLE BRIGADE
This inscription is on the back of the memorial and draws the reader's attention to the memorial tablet inside the church. The two men mentioned on the stone were associated with the Maclean family. Charles Robert Peel Corbin lived at 7 Beckenham Rd. Kent: readers may recall that the Maclean family left Halesend in 1901, moved to Kent and took up residence in 11 Beckenham Rd. We know that Charles's mother, Mrs. Mary Linda Peel Corbin, became a close friend and companion of Mrs. Maclean after the death of her husband, General Maclean. Mrs. Maclean remembered Mrs. Corbin in her will.
Lieutenant Corbin was serving with the 11th Battalion The Worcester Regiment when he was killed. He died of wounds on 13/14 October 1916. The Regiment was engaged in fighting the Bulgarians in Macedonia. The reason for our being there in the first place was to assist the Russians, as their allies, the Serbs had been mauled by the Bulgarians. The Germans regarded it as their finest P.O.W. camp, as it tied up half a million allied soldiers in a sideline war, well away from the Western Front. Added to this, the weather was atrocious and the troops suffered accordingly.
It was the Crimea all over again and questions were raised in Parliament about the troops' health. Nothing changes: throughout history the British Army has been called upon to fight, or stand between, other people's battles and the loss of life in such circumstances seems particularly pointless.
Turning now to Cpl H Lane, fortunately for research purposes there was only one Corporal Lane in the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, and Captain Ivan Maclean was Medical Officer to that battalion. 5/6780 L/Cpl Harry Lane, Military Medal, was the son of George and Ann Lane of 728 Slattocks, Castleton, Manchester and was awarded the MM on October 18, 1917, shortly after Captain Maclean was awarded the DSO, on September26. 1917. According to one newspaper article Captain Maclean recommended L/Cpl Lane for the VC. It has not been possible to verify this report, but it seems certain that the two men worked closely together trying to rescue wounded men from no man's land between the two opposing sides. Doubtless Captain Maclean will have mentioned the heroism of Corporal Lane to his mother in his letters, hence the reason for Mrs. Maclean including his name on the memorial. He died on August 28, 1918, and is buried in Niederzwehren Cemetery in Germany.
To return to the inscription and the reference to the Parish Roll of Honour. Not everyone, perhaps, realizes that the village war memorial is inside the church, flanked by the standards of the Cradley Branch and the Royal Engineers Malvern Branch of the Royal British Legion.
The Worcester Herald for Saturday November 29, 1919, reports:
On Sunday, at the Parish Church, a special service was held for the unveiling of a memorial tablet and the dedication of a clock, subscribed for by the parishioners. The Revd. W.L.B. Janvrin (Rector) officiated. The church was filled there being a large number of ex-servicemen who paid this last tribute to their fallen comrades.
The service was an impressive one, and the musical part was ably rendered by the choir. After the processional hymn, "The Son of God goes forth to war", Psalm 90 and Hymn 428 were sung, a lesson was read, and a touching address given by the Rector. On the stroke of 7 p.m. the tablet was unveiled by Col E. H. Thurlow, and the clock set going by striking the hour. The names on the tablet were read by the Rector, then followed dedicatory and other prayers and the hymns, "Supreme Sacrifice" and "On the resurrection morning". The National Anthem concluded the service.
There are 21 names recorded on the tablet giving their ranks and Regiments or Corps. Their sacrifice is even more significant if one stops and considers just what the village consisted of in those days, there being no Buryfields, no The Leys, no Brookside, no King's Orchard, no Huntingdon, no Fincher's Corner, no Oaklands, no Credenleigh, no Pixieflelds, as well as many other houses built since the 1st World War.
On Wednesday afternoon, April 21, 1920 a very impressive ceremony took place in Cradley, when a memorial wayside cross was dedicated to the memory of the two sons and two grandsons of Mrs. Maclean of Hereford, who gave their lives in the war. Their names, together with those of their friends U. R Peel Corbin and Cpl. H Lane, are inscribed on the cross.
A friend of the family living in Cradley lent a Union Jack to drape the cross and The Worcestershire Regiment provided Drummer W Hayes to sound "The Last Post" and the "Reveille" at the conclusion of the Dedication Service.
The weather was most unpropitious, but a large crowd of parishioners gathered at the cross. The cross of brown granite, stands on three tiers and its beauty is in its simplicity. The choir, followed by Revd. Preb. Janvrin, took up their positions around the cross, with Mrs. Maclean and friends, Colonel Thurlow and others close by. The Rector recited the words: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" and versicles and responses were solemnly intoned. There followed Psalm 47, "O clap your hands together'.
The dedication then took place and Mrs. Maclean removed the Union Jack and the Rector said: "Dearly beloved, whereas this cross which is now to be blessed is set for a memorial of those who have died gloriously for their country, let us commend their souls to the mercy of God and say together Psalm 130, "Out of the deep have I called unto thee".
After further prayer the hymn written by Mr. J. S. Arkwright and the music composed by Dr. Harris, Rector of Colwall, entitled "The Supreme Sacrifice" was sung. This deeply moved all those present. This was followed by the blessing of the cross, and the hymn "When I survey the wondrous cross" was sung before the Benediction.
Mrs. Maclean and friends then laid wreaths at the foot of the cross, which included the words: "In glorious memory of our heroic sons, from their mothers. 'Faithful unto death'." "From Mrs. Alec Maclean. With all my love to my darling." "To the dear and unfading memory of Capt. Ivan Maclean DSO. MC & Bar. Lt. Alec C Maclean; Lt. FM Abbott from W." "Better love hath no man than this."
It is time to close this story of the Maclean family, although new snippets of information keep surfacing, so I will end with just two. Both Ivan and Alec were exceedingly tall men, both being 6'5" in stature; and Ivan as well as all his other talents, was very musical and won a Daily Mail national competition for the composition of a new waltz.
Finally, I will quote from an obituary written by Brigadier General Hon. R Brand DSO, MC who, prior to his promotion, had been Ivan Maclean's commanding officer. General Brand's chief memory of Captain Maclean was of him searching the shell holes for wounded men at night with a torch, accompanied by one or two of his faithful attendants often well beyond the front line. However, Maclean was not taken in by malingerers: "rheumatism is an inconvenience in wartime, not a malady".
He ended "... that dear, long, civilian doctor, with his pince-nez, his queer taste in uniform and his incomparable courage - he was without fear".
My task is over; it has been an interesting exercise, though I never imagined it would turn out in the way it has. Having started with a blank sheet of paper I am amazed at what we have uncovered. Isay "we" because the great bulk of what has been discovered is entirely due to Sue Hubbard, Head of Repository at Hereford Record Office, and her sister Wendy in London. They have been like terriers; once they got their teeth into it, they never let go! I am so grateful to them both. Nor must I forget the Reverend Kenneth Maclean, who once we had located him, has been kind enough to guide my hand and correct where necessary. I am only too thankful that it has been possible to piece together the story of the Maclean family and to record their heroism and sacrifice.
To close I would like to borrow the Kohima Epitaph:
"When you go home, tell them of us and say:- 'For your tomorrow we gave our today".
From a leaflet by Sandy Fraser, Cradley Branch Royal British Legion, January 1998.