The Fate of Lieutenant Kenneth Wetzlar McLean

Gotha G.V 904/16 “Erika” and ground personnel holding 12.5 kg, 100 kg, and 50 kg PuW bombs, c.1917. Source: THE GREAT AEROPLANE RAID by Thomas C. Van Hare.

Gotha G.V 904/16 “Erika” and ground personnel holding 12.5 kg, 100 kg, and 50 kg PuW bombs, c.1917.
Source: THE GREAT AEROPLANE RAID by Thomas C. Van Hare.

On November 28, 1917 Lieutenant McLea, a banker from Montreal Quebec, was on duty as a member of the 3rd Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column. The day had started out with a frost but was characterized as a “fine day” in the Unit’s War Diary. McLea, with 200 pack mules had collected ammunition at “B” Dump (near Poperinge, France) and was setting out to deliver this allotment of ammunition. At approximately 11:00 AM some Goth bombers (probably Gotha G.V) attacked. One of the bombs wounded Lieutenant McLea grievously.

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“Died of Wounds” On the morning of October 28th 1917, he was in charge of a pack train of about 200 mules, loading ammunition at “B” Dump, Oxford Road. About 11.00 o’clcock a number of Gotha bombing planes came over and bombed the dump and vicinity. Lieutenant McLea who was on the road near the dump was hit by one of the bombs, which shattered all the lower part of his body. He was carried to a dressing station, from there evacuated to No. 8 Canadian Field Ambulance, where he died shortly afterwards.

He was to die later at No. 8 Canadian Field Ambulance and would pass into history unnoticed save for the Royal Bank of Canada Roll of Honour and the Canadian Virtual War Memorial entry.

No. 8 Canadian Field Ambulance reports in their war diary and supplements the activity of the German bombers, especially at night:

“During the night of the 25th, a considerable number of stretcher cases were handled many of them local casualties caused by hostile air-craft, the enemy usually paying us nightly visits around VLAMERTINGHE and the rooms of the old Mill rocked with the concussion of his exploding bombs nearby.”

As the No. 8 Canadian Field Ambulance reports, October 1917 was a busy month and Lieutenant McLea is one of many Canadian soldiers lost into the void of statistics. This organization was to process 3,250 wounded soldiers with October 27th and 31st accounting for 1,3006 men in just those 2 days.

Lieutenant McLea sacrificed his life and, but for happenstance, his sacrifice would have been lost to history. During a search of Circumstances of Death Cards for 18th Battalion soldiers Lieutenant McLea’s circumstances of death were found. The circumstances of death card description was poignant and  unique in that the description had such detail as to the time of the incident and nature of this soldier’s wounds. This card also shows insight into the tactical use of aviation to interdict military resources outside of the range of artillery.

8th Canadian Field Ambulance supplement to October 1917 War Diary entries written as an appendix to the November 1917 War Diary. This page has reference to the use of bombing aircraft by the Germans.

8th Canadian Field Ambulance appendix showing statistics of men cared for during October 1917.

Lt. McLea’s Attestation Paper, page 1.

Lt. McLea’s Attestation Paper, page 2.

 

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