In remembrance of The Great War during this centenary year, this blog will explore the intriguing social history of that tumultuous time. The first two of my Muskoka Novels – "The Summer Before the Storm" and "Elusive Dawn" – take place from 1914-1918. During my four years of research I accumulated a trunkful of notes, and will illuminate some of the more interesting and unusual tidbits, beginning with the Age of Elegance.
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
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
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.