John Macleod, 19 Swordale

The casualty list of 20th January 1916 announced the nobile fulfilment of the career of a fine ranker, Lieut John Macleod, 1st Seaforth Highlanders. He was born in Stornoway, the eldest son of a retired seafaring man turned farmer. Bred in a hard, open-air life, he had the strength and stature of an ox. Soldiering was second nature to him and he loved it. His temperament was ideal for making the most of a magnificent physique, refined, with delicated, nervous sensibility, native shrewdness and perseverance, material content-he often said to me he was happy anywhere-tempered by military ambition, the traditions of our Highland regiments were to him almost a fetish. Like others, he found a joy in mastering every branch of military work that came his way, and so he was probably one of the most certificated men in the Army, having qualified in the musketry, maxim-gunnery-and he was even found time at the front to master the new Vickers gun-signalling, map-reading, gymnastics, drill, military education, swimming and mounted infantry work.

His First Wound

I met him first in the field hospital at Paardeberg, seventeen years ago. Shot through the chest, only an inch from his heart-his case was the subject of a special medical inquiry after the war-he yet marched off the field to the hospital as calmly as if on parade. He was the first man hit of all those splendid Highlanders under "Fighting Mac" who had splashed through the waters of the river to tackle Cronje's army on the opposite bank. During a brief convalescence he did staff work in the A.A.G.'s office as Naawerport with myself, then he marched and fought with his regiment to the end of the war; and a few years later at Aldershot was the champion athlete of the garrison and an automatic winner of the "open" flat races at regimental meetings.

The pre-war conditions meant for him, as for others, painfully slow promotion, but he was in turn drill-instructor to the cadets at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, colour sergeant, sergeant-major of Lovat's Scouts-he was a splendid horseman s well as infantry marcher-a subaltern fighting with the Seaforth in France from May to November, 1915, and he met his death as company commander, fighting with the relief force in Mesopotamia int he splendid victory of 7th January 1916.
 He  was a perfect specimen of the "happy warrior"; his ringing laugh was a tonic; and he was a Christian soldier after General "Chinese" Gordon's own heart. Let the following brief extracts from his letters to me prove it and mirror the soul of the man as no world's could ever hope to do:-

A soldier's faith
28/5/15-"I am proud of our soldiers out here, and I thank my God for giving me health and strength to do my 'bit' along with them; and I trust that my health will continue to be such for it is necessary that everybody here, as you know, must work and take no chances of any kind. I am in the pink of condition and enjoying life under the circumstances as it should be".
With the same, he enclosed an attempt at rhyming, written, as he told me, "under shell fire", in which he expressed a decided preference for the firing line as compared with the reserves, and ended thus:-

"Please do not think I am grumbling,
Or shouting out too loud
For that is not a habit with-
Yours truly, Jock Macleod"

28/6/15 - "I am enjoying the very best of health and I must add that I am getting along splendidly. You know that I like military work and therefore it is a pleasure to be able to do my work here".

4/10/15 (Battle of Loos still in progress)-"I am thankful to God to any that I was never fitter for anything that may come in front of me to do. There is nothing like facing the music here with a smile, to let me hope and trust in Him who has the power to bring this terrible matter to an end. Our troops are magnificent. They are ready for anything. You would be surprised. We were extremely lucky on the first day; indeed, sometimes when I think of affairs it is wonderful how the majority escaped being hit someway".

His epitaph
His own ideal was duty. He inspired his men with the same. They repaid him with worship. He has come into his own kingdom in Mesopotamia. He was one of Scotland's grandest soldier sons, and one of Nature's own perfect gentlemen.

Stornoway Gazette, 5 January 1917

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