5th Cyclist Battalion, North Irish Horse (British Army)
Date Of Birth:
16/08/1918 (Killed in Action)
Wesley Charles McClelland was the son of Sloan and Sarah McClelland. He was born on 31st January 1890 in Cookstown. He was one of twelve children, eleven surviving. His father was a baker and grocer with a shop in William Street. Wesley was a baker also. Wesley enlisted in Cookstown. After taking part in the action of the German Spring Offensive of March 1918, the Regiment was further reduced when an officer and 13 men were attached to 64th Brigade, 21st Division on 14th August 1918. Two days later, on the Friday 16th August 1918, Private Wesley McClelland was killed in action as the division prepared for another attack on the Somme.
Wesley Charles McClelland was the son of Sloan and Sarah McClelland. Sloan McClelland and Sarah Burton were married on 29th May 1880 in Cookstown.
Wesley Charles McClelland was born on 31st January 1890 in the parish of Derryloran. He was one of twelve children, eleven surviving.
The 1901 census lists Wesley as age 11, living with the family at house 12 in Oldtown Street, Cookstown. Sloan McClelland was a baker and a grocer.
Family: Sloan McClelland, Sarah McClelland, Margaret Maud McClelland (born 5th March 1881), Robert McClelland (born 20th December 1882), Sarah McClelland (born 16th September 1884), Teresa McClelland (born 16th September 1886), Herbert McClelland (born 16th May 1888), Wesley Charles McClelland (born 31st January 1890), Edmond McClelland (born 12th August 1892), Rebecca / Ruby McClelland (born 28th December 1894), Sidney McClelland (born 21st September 1896), James / Dawson McClelland (born 22nd October 1898), Fredrick McClelland (born 15th March 1901), Hugh Ernest McClelland (born 27th November 1903).
The 1910 Ulster towns Directory lists Sloan McClelland as being a baker, grocer, and restaurateur at William Street in the town.
The 1911 census lists Charles Wesley as age 21, living with the family at house 14 in William Street, Cookstown. Wesley was a baker.
Wesley enlisted in Cookstown with the North Irish Horse, a regiment which formed part of the original British Expeditionary Force that arrived in France in August 1914.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 19th December 1914:
In a letter received last week from Trooper Wesley McClelland at the front, by his relatives at Cookstown, he says that some of the parcels sent to him had arrived, but at least one had miscarried. He goes on to say that Sam Brown was with him, but had gone away again to re-join his own squadron. He hears than another squadron of the North Irish Horse is going out from Derry, but he is not sure if that is true. There are six of the Cookstown troops with him, so it is not so bad. The weather is not cold, but it is very wet, as rain has fallen almost continually for the past two weeks. There is not much fighting where they are, but the Russians are still at it. He added:- ‘The Germans are done for, and they know it, and it is quite a common sight to see them throwing down their guns and giving themselves up.’ He winds up by saying he is still keeping fit. In a letter tom his younger brothers he thanks them for presents, and fears they must have put in a bit of saving to buy such a lot of nice stuff, but he will try and make up for it when he returns home. He hopes they are still at school, and adds:- ‘There are hundreds of children in this country who have not the chance, as their schools have been wrecked by the Germans, so you should be thankful you are not living here.’ He concludes this letter by hoping they are working hard at home to make up for his absence.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 2nd January 1915: Trooper Wesley McClelland
Trooper Wesley McClelland, writing from France to his father, Mr Sloan McClelland, The White House, Cookstown, says:-
‘There has been lots of rain. However, we don’t complain as we will likely have worse before the war is over. It is terrible to see the wrecked homes and innocent blood on every hand – just the same scene everywhere we go. People should be very thankful they are not living in this country. Thanks for pipe and tobacco received all right. It is quite a change from what we have been getting. Many a poor unfortunate German would be glad of it. We come across them starving from cold and hunger, and have no trouble taking them in as prisoners. They come along and throw down their arms and put up their hands. You should see them turn all the colours of the rainbow when we present the bayonet to them. We have been taken back from the frontier and are at present doing bodyguard to General Sir John French, which is a great honour to this squadron. The British have done splendid work on this side. I have had three different mounts since I left Dublin. I have got nearly all the parcels now, and am pretty well off for clothing etc., so don’t send any more until I let you know. There are six of the Cookstown chaps at this place and all are well. The French are very kind to us, often giving us hot coffee at 5 o’clock in the morning after we have done patrol all night. Thanks for penknife which is very useful. Kind Irish friends, keep us in a supply of cigarettes and other requisites.’
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 23rd January 1915:
Trooper Wesley McClelland (son of Mr Sloan McClelland, White House, Cookstown), of the North Irish Horse, has sent home to his sister for safe keeping as mementoes – a German soldier’s cap, a German coin, Princess Mary’s Christmas card, photo, and cigarette box. Trooper McClelland reports himself as feeling fit.
According to his medal card, Wesley McClelland served for a time with the Corps of Hussars. The regiment numbers are reversed however and his Hussars number was 71062 and his NIH number was 663.
From the Mid Ulster Mail unknown date in 1915: Herbert McClelland, Canadian Royal Engineers (brother of Wesley McClelland)
It is just nine years since Herbert McClelland, son of Sloan McClelland, The White House, Cookstown, went out to Canada. He was engaged in railway extension work there and making good, when some months ago volunteers were asked for from the railwaymen to form a Canadian Corps of Royal Engineers for service at the front. About 15,000 responded out of which 540 were selected, one of whom was young McClelland. After partial training in Canada, the corps came over to England in June, and were encamped at Longmore, some forty miles from London. Royal Engineer McClelland spent a few days leave renewing old acquaintances in his native town recently, returning to England on Monday last. He expects soon to go on active service with his corps, either to France or the Dardanelles. His brother, Wesley, is on the North Irish Horse and is one of Sir John French’s bodyguard.
While in France, the Regiment went through many changes. From the original Regiment of North Irish Horse, two Battalions were formed. 1st Battalion were formed on 10th May 1916 and was made up of A, D and E squadrons. 2nd Battalion was raised on 21st June 1916, from the ranks of the original B and C squadrons along with a service squadron from the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. At the end of August 1917 the 2nd Battalion were temporarily dismounted and became part of the 9th (NIH) Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers. By the beginning of March 1918 the 1st Battalion North Irish Horse became the 5th Cyclist Battalion (North Irish Horse) with its original squadrons unchanged.
After taking part in the action of the German Spring Offensive of March 1918, the Regiment was further reduced when an officer and 13 men were attached to 64th Brigade, 21st Division on 14th August 1918.
Two days later, on the Friday 16th August 1918, Private Wesley McClelland was killed in action as the division prepared for another attack on the Somme.
Private McClelland's body was recovered in October 1919 from a burial site south-east of Beaumont-Hamel (map ref. 57.d.Q.18.a.2.5) and moved to the Ancre British Cemetery. It had been identified by a cross over the grave. (See Burial Return form below.)
Private Wesley McClelland is buried in Ancre British Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel, France
Private Wesley McClelland is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph as Charles Wesley McClelland.
Wesley’s brother, Herbert McClelland, served with the Canadian Corps of Royal Engineers during the war.