Lieutenant George Douglas MacLellan

Biography of Lieutenant George Douglas MacLellan

George Douglas MacLellan was born to a family who already owned a successful steel and iron business called P. & W. MacLellan and Co. The business was formed in 1839 by Peter and Walter MacLellan who made the bold move to quickly expand the business to meet the demand of Glasgow’s growing engineering works. By the early 20th century, the business was flourishing as it was responsible for many of the bridge and railway constructions throughout Britain and was responsible for much of the building of the South Indian Railway. At the time of the declaration of war, George had just returned from a visit to India, which was most likely a business trip.

Having received his early education at Merchiston Castle School, where he also served as a Cadet Sergeant in the Junior Division of the Officers’ Training Corps, he enrolled at the University of Glasgow in 1908 studying Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and Laboratory. Having successfully completed his first year, he went onto study Engineering and Mathematics and graduated with a BSc in 1912. It would seem after the successful completion of his degree, he entered the family business.

His two older brothers, Walter Scott and Alexander Stephen, also travelled across the world. Both left Scotland, arriving in Honolulu, Hawaii on 24th May 1909. They travelled from Hawaii to California and then onto Yokohama, Japan where they appear to have been resident at the outbreak of war. It is unclear as to whether his two brothers served in the war. However, at the declaration of war George enlisted for service and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant of the 5th Bn. Highland Light Infantry in October 1914.

On the 7th August 1915, it was reported in the London Gazette that George was made temporary Captain at the Ministry of Munitions. On the 1st July 1916, it was reported that he continued to act as temporary Captain (restored to the established). However, on the 20th March 1917, he relinquished his temporary rank returning to his former rank of 2nd Lieutenant. The 5th Battalion had been in Palestine but it was around the same time as George relinquished his temporary commission that he was sent to the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment who were fighting in France. The war diary does not state when he arrived at the battalion but he was fighting with them by April 1917.

By the 26th April 1917, the 2nd Battalion had moved into the front line between Oppy Wood and Arleux. They had fought all day on the 27th with the war diary reporting that two companies “A” and “B” from the Battalion had withdrawn from the front line as they were too close to the enemy line. The fighting raged on into the night and the account from the war diary stated:

Heavy barrage came down within 1 min of our own which was very irregular. Several casualties on the wire, which was badly cut. “A” Company had to cut through and “B” Company found one gap only. Heavy [machine gun] fire came from Oppy Wood[…] Sniping and machine gun fire was heavy from the wood and shelling of the new position commenced in the afternoon. Two counter attacks were delivered, in the morning and the afternoon, but both were successfully beaten off.

There were many casualties as a result of this brutal onslaught. Over 180 men were wounded and forty-two men with ranks were killed in action, including George Douglas MacLellan.

It was reported in the England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966 that his family had been notified of his death, but could not confirm the location, though he is commemorated on the war memorial at Arras. This could be due to the misspelling of George’s surname which appeared in the war diary as ‘McLellan’. George had also been a member at the Royal Troon Golf Club who noted in their General Committee minutes held in the Clubhouse on Saturday 26 May 1917 at 4:15 pm, 'reported that George D MacLellan had been killed in action and R S McFarlane had died of wounds'. He is also commemorated on the war memorial at the Royal Troon Golf Club, but they list his rank as Lieutenant. According the 1917 war diary, George had never been promoted to Lieutenant and died as the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. This is also recorded on his medal roll card, where it states that he received the Victory and British medals for his service.


Lieutenant George Douglas MacLellan
Rank: Lieutenant
Regiment: 5th Bn. Highland Light Infantry
Degree: BSc
Awards: N/A
Comments: Killed in action, 28 April 1917.
Note/Press Clipping: Ch 4/4/2/3/1106
Photo ID: N/A


Moss and Hume, 2000-2001, ‘Bridge Building Achievements of P. & W. MacLellan & Co., (1850-1914)’. Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 72, pp. 179-202

George Douglas MacLellan profile on the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis website.

London Gazette, 3rd November 1914, p. 8893; 1915, London Gazette, 5th October 1915, p. 9760; 1916, London Gazette, 20th July 1916, p. 7207; 1917, London Gazette, 24th April 1917, p. 3900.

1914-1917. ‘2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry Diary’, Scotland’s War. [online] Available at:

Memorial Place: Commonwealth War Graves Commission - Find War Dead

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