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 dated 14th August 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.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 18th September 1915: War Relics- Herbert McClelland (brother of Wesley McClelland)
We have on exhibition in our shop windows some war relics kindly sent to us by Lance Corporal Herbert McClelland, son of Mr Sloan McClelland, Cookstown, who is home on a few days leave, looking very fit. The most interesting is a jagged fragment of a German shell which burst on Monday night, 13th September, within 400 feet of where the Canadian regiment, of which Lance Corporal McClelland is a unit, were at supper somewhere in Belgium. The others are a long series of buttons of various Belgian regiments fastened on to a leather strap, and a Belgian bayonet picked on a battlefield of Dixmude.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 16th October 1915:
Trooper James B Marks, of the North Irish Horse. Has just paid a visit to his parents who reside at Drumads, Coagh. Jim, who was well-known in Coagh and district, was called up for active service at the beginning of hostilities, and is only once home on leave since then. He was looking fit and well, and although taking part in many engagements, including the retreat from Mons, he has so far escaped uninjured. He has been serving with the bodyguard to Sir John French, and amongst some of the local soldiers with whom he was acquainted in France he mentioned troopers Wesley McClelland, Cookstown and Hiram Irwin, Drapersfield. During his short stay at home, he has had numerous visitors, to all of which he spoke well of his treatment both in France and Belgium, but of any other experiences at the front he didn’t care to say anything, except that he had been fortunate in escaping so far. Trooper Marks has now returned to his unit in France again, leaving Coagh on Wednesday.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 4th December 1915: North Irish Horse Troopers Home
Troopers Wesley McClelland, Cookstown and Samuel Espey, Tullyboy, both of the North Irish Horse, have been home for a few days furlough, and are looking fit and well. The y have been for a considerable time, on the bodyguard of the Commander in Chief, and consequently some distance from the firing line. They seem to feel that there would be more life in being engaged in the active hostilities.
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.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 9th February 1918: A Motor Bicycle Deal (Dawson McClelland – brother of Wesley McClelland)
Dawson McClelland, chemist’s assistant (a minor by his father, Sloan McClelland, Cookstown), sued Samuel Hamilton, Bellaghy, for £42 price of a motor cycle. A writ has been issued in the Superior Court and the case remitted. Mr Hastings for the plaintiff and Mr Brown for the defendant. The plaintiff deposed that he was joining the Royal Flying Corps, and he wished to dispose of his motor cycle and side car. He heard from a son of Thomas Ritchie’s that his father was on the lookout for a machine, and this led to Mr Ritchie getting a trial run on the machine to Knockloughrim on 21st September, and Mr Marshall Reynolds went on the trailer. In consequence of this trial run, Mr Ritchie and the plaintiff went on the machine to Bellaghy on the following day. Here another trial run took place, the defendant being on the side car. They went to Mr Hamilton’s home, where he expressed his appreciation of the motor. The plaintiff asked for £45, but eventually agreed to accept £42 10s 0d. Mr Hamilton wrote a cheque for £42 and the plaintiff, refusing to take it, added a 10s Treasury note. The plaintiff wished to go to Cookstown that night, and asked the defendant for the loan of the bicycle, promising to return it by Monday at the latest. On the way home the engine was not working satisfactorily, and the witness explained to Ritchie that that he believed the sparking plug had become carbonised by the use, on a former occasion, of inferior motor spirit. He left the cycle with Ritchie to have it put right before returning it to Mr Hamilton. The cheque for £42 was stopped and he sued for it. To Mr Brown: ‘He had not seen the bicycle since. He had not given any warranty on it. Marshall Reynolds deposed to going on a trial run to Knockloughrim. When they topped the steep hill entering Knockloughrim, Ritchie said ‘the bike will do.’ The witness had several runs on the bicycle himself and it was a reliable machine.’
W J McCausland, cycle mechanic, stated that he had overhauled McClelland’s motor cycle on the 5th September, and there was nothing then wrong with the machine to interfere with her running. The price of £42 10s 0d was reasonable. A new one such as it, would cost £80. For the defence: Thomas Ritchie, cycle mechanic, deposed he went with McReynolds to Mr McLean’s, Knockloughrim, and thought it was a good opportunity to test McClelland’s bicycle. He accompanied McClelland on the next day to Bellaghy. Mr Samuel Hamilton had a trial run on the bicycle with McClelland. Hamilton had no previous knowledge of a motor cycle. After the sale, McClelland asked the loan of the machine to take him home, saying he send same back before Monday. Hamilton, having consented, both returned the way they had gone. Coming from Bellaghy, the bicycle was not taking the hills well, and in his opinion, was not in a fit condition for delivery, and the plaintiff suggested sending it to McCausland’s to have it seen to before returning it on Monday. Being busy, he did not take the bicycle to McCausland, and he considered McClelland had a better right than he to see after it, as he (Ritchie) was making nothing out of the transaction. The bicycle was still at his shop. The defendant, Samuel Hamilton, deposed that on 22nd September, McClelland and Ritchie arrived on a motor cycle. He was going with tea for the workers, and McClelland took him on the bicycle to his farm, about a mile distant. As a result of this trial run, he bought the bicycle for £42 10s 0d, and agreed to lending the bicycle. Ritchie called on Monday, and in consequence of a conversation with Ritchie, he stopped payment of the cheque. To Mr Hastings: ‘He never asked Ritchie to buy him a bicycle. He was well pleased with the trial run and after the sale consented to lend bicycle, same to be returned Monday. His honour said he would consider the case, and on Friday morning gave a decree for the amount claimed.
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.