23/851 Lieutenant Thomas Harold McLean – 1st Battalion, 3rd NZ Rifle Brigade

Thomas Harold McLean was born in Invercargill on 15th July 1885[i] the son of Margaret and Henry McLean. Thomas
was raised in Gladstone[ii], Otago with his three brothers and two sisters.

On 24th April 1915 Thomas enlisted in the NZ Expeditionary Force, aged 29, a single man living in Paremata, Wellington
and working as a clerk for the New Zealand Railways. His military papers note, initially, his brother Francis Allan McLean
as his next of kin but when Francis also enlisted in the NZEF this was changed to his sister Mary Edith McLean[iii].

Rifleman McLeod on arrival at camp was promoted to Sergeant, Headquarters Staff. 1st Battalion, 3rd NZ Rifle Brigade.  Sergeant McLeod’s brother 24/527 Rifleman F A McLeod joined him in camp in May 1915 but was assigned to the
2nd Battalion, NZ(R)B.
Sergeant McLean with other members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Battalion, NZ(R)B left New Zealand on 9th October 1915. Following the arrival, in Egypt, the 1st Battalion, NZ(R)B  in Egypt it was involved  in the Senussi Campaign. The Senussi Campaign was against a Moslem Sect leader who with Turkish and German support and supplies had invaded Western Egypt. 

At the end of the Campaign the 1st Battalion prepared for service on the European Western Front and Sergeant McLean was promoted to Acting Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant possibly a replacement for 23/884 WO2 Robert Charles
Purkis who was killed in action on 25th December 1915, during the final days of the 1st Battalion’s involvement in the campaign. The day prior to the 1st Battalion sailing for France A/RQMS McLean was appointed as
Warrant Officer Class 2 (WOII ) McLean.

WOII McLean remained on the Western Front until 30th April 1917 when he was nominated for officer training and returned to England. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 2nd June 1917 he remained with the 5th Reserve Battalion ,
NZ (R)B learning to be an officer and commanding men. A common practice was to return newly commissioned by experienced soldiers to New Zealand to form the nucleus in training reinforcements. 2nd Lieutenant McLean left
England on 9th August 1917 to report to New Zealand, Trentham Military Camp. 2nd Lieutenant was initially assigned to
the 37th Reinforcements on 29th October 1917. 2nd Lieutenant McLean left with A Company, 37th Reinforcements, on
9th May 1918 arriving at the NZ(R)B Depot, Brocton, England on 24th June 1918.

By the 12th August 1918 2nd Lt McLean was back on the Western Front allocated to the 1st Battalion, 3rd NZ(R) Brigade
but was wounded a month later and returned to England with a ‘slight gunshot wound to the left leg.’ 2nd Lieutenant McLean then remained in England being posted, following treatment ‘on duty’ at the NZ Convalescent Hospital, Brighton
in December 1918 where he was promoted to Lieutenant. Lieutenant McLean remained at the hospital through till
March 1919 when he was due to be returned and demobilised in New Zealand. Lieutenant McLean however chose to remain in England.

There is a marriage recorded in the July- September 1919 register at Cannock, Staffordshire of Thomas H McLean to Dorothy H (Hyacinth) Heath.  Thomas’s military files have an address amendment to Manor Farm, Draycott-in-the-Moor, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Thomas also resigned his commission in April 1920 listing his occupations as a farmer at Manor Farm.

Thomas and Dorothy came to New Zealand in the early 1920’s and farmed in Progress Valley, Niagara, Southland[iv]. 

Thomas divorced Dorothy in 1925 and remarried in 1926[v].

Thomas Harold McLean died on 7th January 1943 and his name is memorialised on the McLean grave in the Invercargill Cemetery.

Two of Lieutenant McLean’s brothers served in in the Boer War
4321 Trooper Robert Orlando Kennedy McLean, 7th Contingent , NZ Mounted Rifles was killed in action on 25th June 1901.
9/513 Gunner Alfred McLean served as 6086 Trooper McLean in the Boer War, In WW1 he served  with the Otago Mounted Rifles at
Gallipoli he was transferred to Divisional Ammunition Column on the
Western Front from  1916. Gunner McLean returned to New Zealand and
died of a suspected suicide on 11th April 1919.
Another of Lieutenants McLean’s brothers served in WW1.
24/527 Rifleman Francis Allan McLean, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd NZ(R)B
who was killed on 15th September 1916.

Archway Archives New Zealand, Military Files
Paperspast Online
UK BDM (free) Online
Invercargill Cemetery Database

McLean family grave: Invercargill Cemetery Database

[i] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 23/851 Lieutenant Thomas Harold McLean
[ii] Rifleman F A McLean, 2nd October 1916, The Sports Roll of Honour
[iii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files, 23/851 Lieutenant Thomas Harold McLean
[iv] Electoral Rolls 1928
[v] Archives Invercargill Divorce files



McLean family grave Invercargill