Thirty years ago this month (December 1917), David Macleod enlisted as a private in the Seaforth Highlanders; on Wednesday of last week (19 December) he finished his brilliant career in France, a lieutenant-colonel of the British Army and a DSO. He was a soldier born. Every fibre in him responded to the military impulses, and it did not surprise his friends that, fired anew by the martial spirit, on the outbreak of war he volunteered for service. He had been campaigning all his life, in many lands, and this had not been without its effect, even on his iron frame. When the bugle call rang through the land in August 1914, he was not fit for active service, but he literally speaking made himself fit. It was a sublime triumph of mind over matter. He had never shirked his duty, however irksome or dangerous, and was he now to stay at home - even in well-earned ease - to read of other man's achievements on the stricken fields, where Duty beckoned him? He would rise supreme over his physical disabilities and to outward seeming he had succeeded though to those who loved him best it was clear that he never really recovered complete health. But his heart was in his work, and he had the joy of the true soldier in the doing of it. After recovering from the serious wounds received at Loos, he was given a Staff appointment in France, but he again applied for service in the firing line. A cloud of apprehension spread over Stornoway and Lewis when it became known that he was lying ill in a Clearing Station, deepened when intimation was received on the 17th December that his condition was critical. On Wednesday 19th, the news passed sorrowfully from lip to lip that our most distinguished Lewis soldier had died of pneumonia, brought on by shell gas. The loss was a deep and personal one for us all, for as an Island we felt we had a part in him. To his sorrowing widow and other relatives the sincerest sympathy goes out in their grief - a grief which we would have them know the whole community shares.
The following sketch of his career is quoted from the "Lewis Roll of Honour".
Lieut-Colonel David Macleod DSO is a son of the late Mr William Macleod, Arnol, Barvas. He enlisted in the Seaforth Highlanders before he was quite sixteen years of age. In 1895, volunteering for special service in connection with the organisation of the new Egyptian army, he went out as one of the small band of Sergeant Instructors (of whom Lewis provided two) immortalised by Kipling in "Pharaoh and the Sergeant". The task of turning the spiritless Fellahean into fighting soldiers was at the time deemed hopeless by many, but the British instructors proved themselves "a charm for making riflemen from mud".
With the young army thus created Major Macleod served throughout Lord Kitchener's reconquest of the Sudan. He was present at the Battle of Fisket (June 1896) and served in the Nile Expeditions of 1897 and 1898. He fought in Sir Hector Macdonald's famous Brigade at the Battles of Atbara and Omdurman. In admiration of the perfect steadiness and gallant conduct of the 2nd Egyptians (trained by Major Macleod) at Omdurman, Stevens, in "Wish Kitchener to Khartoum" described them as "the best trained and disciplined battalion in the world". During 1899, Major Macleod served on the White Nile and in Khordofan with the forces pursuing the Khalifa. For his services he was mentioned in Lord Kitchener's despatches, received the Khedive's Medal with six clasps, the Queen's Sudan Medal, the Medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field and as a further reward, a commission in the Cameron Highlanders. In the South African war, he served continuously for over two yeras, seeing service in Cape Colony, the Free State and the Transvaal, where he was wounded and again mentioned in Lord Kitchener's despatches for distinguished conduct in the field at the same time receiving the Queen's Medal with three clasps and the King's Medal with two clasps. Towards the end of the war, he joined the South African constabulary, popularly known as Baden Powell's Police. When peace was declared, he was made a District Commandant and a Justice of the Peace. After two years with the South African Constabulary, he volunteered for active service in Somaliland and served for about four years with the King's African Rifles in Central Africa, British East Africa and Uganda. During that period, he took part in the Souk Punitive Expedition, and served with the Nandi Field Force. He receive the African General Service Medal with two clasps and five years after receiving his commission, was specially promoted to the rank of Captain in the Gordon Highlanders in recognition of his varied services in the field. In 1907, he again accepted service in the Sudan, to organise and command the Camel Corps Training School at Khartoum; and he saw service with the Camel Corps on the Blue Nil in 1908. After being stationed with his battalion (2nd Gordons) for two years in India, he was appointed to the Depot in Aberdeen and retired early in 1914, after twenty-seven years' service. Later in the year, on war being declared, he volutneered his service and was appointed to the 8th Gordons with the rank of Major. He served. in the field in France from the beginning of May until 25th september 1915, when he was seriously wounded at the storming of the Hohenzollern Redoubt. For his "conspicuous gallantry and devotion" in this engagement he was given the Distinguished Service Order. "In the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt", the official record states, "although wounded three times, he continued to lead his Company forward till he fell from exhaustion".
It is with feelings of profound regret we heard of the death of Lieut-Col David Macleod DSO. The sad intelligence has cast quite a gloom over the town, yea, over the whole island. We predicted a brilliant future for our "Fighting Mac". He was a brave and fearless hero, and proved his outstanding qualities as a leader of men on many occasions. This won for him the admiration of both friend and foe, rich and poor. Who will ever forget his bravery and courageous action at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, leading his men to victory, though severely wounded, till he fell from exhaustion, which action won for him the coveted honour of DSO? I will not attempt to enumerate the many qualities as a soldier, and how he rose from the ranks, but will leave it to a more facile pen. I was intimately acquainted with him and can truly say he was one of nature's gentlemen - broad-minded and with a good word to say of everyone. He looked for only the best qualities in a man. He was an ardent and enthusiastic disciple of Isaac Walton, and it is in this capacity I knew him best. Those who have spent a day with him at the Loch-side could not fail to be inspired by his cheerful disposition and boyish spirit when landing the speckled beauties of Loch Bridiag ro the much-sought-after char of Loch Orisay. Only two months ago he was home on short leave from the front. He looked the picture of health and was in the best of spirits. A continuation of his brilliant career was predicted for him by all, but the Great Disposer of all events has willed it otherwise and called him to a higher service. Words are quite inadequate to express the deep sorrow felt at the loss of such a friend, cut down in the prime of life; but he died as he would have wished, fighting for his King and Country. To his sorrowing widow and relatives, heartfelt sympathy is extended in their time of sore bereavement.
One who has known Col Macleod for many years writes:
The death of Col Macleod has deprived the country of one of those soldiers who has carried the farflung flag of England into nearly every part of the Empire, for he had passed all his life in the Army, serving in India, South Africa, Egypt and through this war. He owed his success to none of the accidents or advantages of birth or position, but to his sterling qualities of character and high ideals of work and duty and to his passionate love of his profession. He was in every way the best representation of the finest creature in the world, the British soldier. He was a fine soldier and a born leader of men, and though a stern disciplinarian, he was beloved by his men who would have followed him anywhere. He set a fine example of what he conceived to be his duty, and his high courage and earnestness of purpose - the outcome of his simple faith - gave him great influence over those with whom he had worked and lived. He was singularly modest and retiring, but to those to whom he gave his friendship he represented a high standard of life and service. They and his men mourn him in every sense of the word, knowing how much poorer the world is because David Macleod has left it.