WW2 Military Record: Harry Clifford McCleland

Harry Clifford McCleland during WW2

Never once did my father ever discuss his involvement in WW2 let alone regale us with stories of the war. Today I bemoan the fact that he was not more open & forthright about his participation; any vignette, however mundane, would have provided an insight into what he had to endure, what was risible and what was hilarious. 

Despite the fact that he had contracted polio as a youngster, and hence was technically not eligible for military service, yet he duly and dutifully volunteered. 

Military duties comprise two categories: active service and non-active service. The latter encompasses experiences such as how they survived on a litre of water per day, the scorching heat or the cloying  oppressively, hot southerly khamsin winds. In my father’s case, being an artificer and a driver precluded him from direct contact with the enemy. Nevertheless, all of his other experiences could have provided a valuable peep into a lost world.

This blog is solely based upon his Military Record which Steve Groeneveld, a running friend, has been able to obtain from the military in Pretoria. 

Main picture: Harry Clifford McCleland in military attire

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Echoes of a Far off War

Walking on a duckboard track

June 28, 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  The Serbian assassin, Gavrilo Princip, fired the first shot in what was to become a horrific four-year long bloodbath. Unbeknownst to the inhabitants of a peaceful settler town on the coast of Algoa Bay, that shot would ultimately reverberate within its military barracks, its churches and its homes.

One hundred years after the start of the Great War, none of the participants remains alive, Harry Patch being the last to pass away. Nevertheless, we are periodically reminded of the valiant but ultimately futile exercise by the aging relics, fading photographs, scarred landscapes being reclaimed by nature, and memorials and graveyards across the globe.  

This blog is in memory of a few of those sons, fathers, brothers and friends from Port Elizabeth who paid the ultimate price for that assassin’s bullet.

Main picture: Soldiers of an Australian 4th Division field artillery brigade walk on a duckboard track laid across a muddy, shattered battlefield in Chateau Wood, near Hooge, Belgium, on October 29, 1917. This was during the Battle of Passchendaele, fought by British forces and their allies against Germany for control of territory near Ypres, Belgium. (James Francis Hurley/State Library of New South Wales)

Continue reading

The Phone Call in the Middle of the Night


In reading Helen Zille’s excellent autobiography, she narrates the incident in which she received a phone call in the middle of the night alleging that her spouse was involved in infidelity.  This despicable practice is used as a ploy to intimidate or to extract revenge. 

As I have experienced a similar incident some 20 years ago, there were uncomfortable parallels in my mind. Fortunately, in both cases, no lasting recriminations or suspicions were aroused or damage inflicted on the relationship. Yet it did cast some momentary doubts on the affected spouse in both cases. 

Main picture: Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Main Street in the Tram Era


Sixty one years after the landing of the 1820 Settlers, the tramway network was established on 14th May 1881. As the initial trams were all horse drawn, no routes up the hill could be established. Instead the line followed the route of Main Street and its various extensions to North End. From 16th June 1897, it was converted to electrical power which allowed the routes to be extended up White’s and Russell Road. 

The tramway network was finally closed down on 17th December 1948. 

Main picture: My favourite picture of this era showing a horse drawn tram at the terminus where the incoming and outgoing lines merged

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Main Street before the Era of Trams

Main Street in the 1840s

Pictures of Main Street dating from the era reveal an array of buildings which would not be any different from those of the set of a Western movie. Furthermore few if any of these buildings still stand apart from the building at the southern end of this road: the City Hall. 

In most cases, the dates of the photographs are unknown. 

Main picture:  Main Street in the 1840s 

Continue reading

Envisioning the Future


With Janine at the Life Groenkloof hospital in Pretoria, I have been spending about four hours a day in my BMW. The time has not been wasted. The time has been used to envisage the future and to question why things are performed in the current manner. Trapped within my car with me, Alesha has been forced to endure my thought processes and speculative rantings. 

Amongst the topics discussed have been whether the university degree in its current format was dead, the future of the car radio & modern forms of electricity generation. 

Pictures: All of the pictures in this blog do not relate to the topics addressed but rather they reflect the wonder and beauty of nature 

  Continue reading

Presidential Debate #2 erases the last vestiges of restraint


After being woken at 2am by the hospital to report that my wife’s condition had deteriorated and was now on a ventilator, I had no option but to watch the American Presidential Debate on CNN as I was unable to sleep. 

How could Trump absolve himself from the controversy swirling around him regarding an offensive, lewd, lascivious comment which objectifies and demeans women? How did Trump handle such a crass comment? Did this debate merely confirm my previous opinions of the candidates and would it shift America’s public opinion?

Main picture: Presidential candidates square up  Continue reading