Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Forgotten Hero

Alan Arnett McLeod - aged 18 on the left and 19 on the right

The heroism of young Canadians in the Great War is no better illustrated than by the incredible story of Alan Arnett McLeod, one of Canada’s three Victoria Cross aviators. (The others were Billy Bishop and William Barker, discussed in the previous post.) The photo above shows him at 18 on the left, and a year later on the right, after the battle for which he received his VC.

Painting of McLeod's VC air battle by Merv Corning
He and his observer-gunner, Lt. Hammond, were on a bombing mission when they were attacked by eight faster and more agile German fighters. Both men were wounded but managed to shoot down three of the triplanes. When their plane’s fuel tank was hit and caught fire, Alan stepped out onto the bottom wing and side-slipped the plane to keep the flames away from Hammond, who was still shooting at the enemy. They crashed in no-man’s-land, where their own bombs started to explode. Although wounded again, Alan managed to roll Hammond to a shell hole while under fire. Both had six wounds and burns, and lay there until nightfall, when help could finally reach them. They managed to survive a three-mile stretcher trip to a forward aide station where their wounds were hastily attended before they were shipped to hospitals.

Alan hovered between life and death for months, but then recovered and was sent home to Canada. Tragically, the Spanish flu was rampaging through the country, and weakened by his ordeal, Alan contracted it, dying just days before the Armistice. He was 19.

No comments:

Post a Comment