WW2 Military Record: Harry Clifford McCleland

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 document centre in Pretoria. 

Main picture: Harry Clifford McCleland in military attire

The only “memorabilia” of my dad’s wartime experiences were a number of pieces of military equipment – a hand grenade, a 6-pounder shell and a 25-pounder shell casing – and about a dozen photographs.

While he might never have discussed his wartime activities and experiences, what he was vocal about was his views on war. Sometimes when Blaine and I re-enacted WW2 battles in the backyard, he would make some scathing comment sotto voco about not comprehending the reality of war. I was keenly aware of his abhorrence to war in any form, and hence attributed his unequivocal and unabashed atheism to this fact. What also no doubt contributed to his antipathy to religion was his bitter experiences as a boarder in an Afrikaans Boarding School in Alexandria as a young child. Suffice to say, both were immensely formative periods in his life.  By extension, how could God allow such despicable acts and behaviour? Without it sounding too melodramatic, both episodes in his life were formative.

HC McCleland
HC McCleland

Personal details:

Force number: 114184V

Name: Harry Clifford McCleland

Date attested: 10th July 1940 [29 years old]

Unit: 5th Field Regiment S.A. Artillery [Pretoria Regiment]

Occupation: Carpenter

Religion: Church of England

Date of birth:  15th September 1911

Africa Star Medal
Africa Star Medal


1939-45 Star
Africa Star
The War Medal 1939-45
Africa Service Medal
8th Army Clasp

As the original medals have been lost, I am in the process of purchasing replacement medals. Once acquired, I will mount them together with his cap badge in a frame. The ultimate intention is to create a similar montage with my grandfather’s medals.

Harry Clifford McCleland in Egypt during WW2
Harry Clifford McCleland in Egypt during WW2 [On the right bottom]

Initial postings:

  • Gunner 5th Field Brigade, 14th Battery, Piet Retief on 10th June 1940
  • 114/84 Gunner 14 Battery, 5th Field Brigade, S.A.A. Piet Retief on 12th December 1940
Harry Clifford McCleland on 13-11-1941
Harry Clifford McCleland on 13-11-1941

Initial promotions:

  • “B” Class Artisan at 7/- per diem from 25/5/1941 [FO 8/41/420 M.E.]
  • Promoted to Cpl “B” Class Artisan at 10/- per diem from 2/6/1941 [FO 8/41/420 M.E.]

Summary of Movements:

All movements by military personnel were performed in terms of an Order. During this period, two types of Orders were used:

  • UO or Union Orders. These were issued in respect of all personnel movements within the borders of South Africa
  • FO or Field Orders were issued for all movements in the field of battle. In this case, they were suffixed by an abbreviation M.E. meaning Middle East.

As the military were not permitted to be deployed externally, they had to individually consent to be employed “overseas.” Furthermore, there was a distinction between Permanent Force and Volunteers with the volunteers having a Force Number suffixed with a V.

2/7/1941Embarked at Durban per 22 “Delwara” for Middle East with 5 Field Regiment SAA
12/8/1941Disembarked at Suez
11/12/1942Embark at Suez (1st SA Division Workshop) ER 154
1/1/1943Disembark at Durban

Hospital record:

DateNatureLocationHospitalRemarks & references
14/12/1940Abscess-backIn the FieldA Coy 12 Field AmbulanceTrf to C.C.S. 14/12/41 (H.R. 139)
21/12/1941Abscess-backM.E.F.18th Field HospitalE.3 (HR 391) Trf to SA Base Hosp 23/12/41
19/2/1943Circumcision21 xxxxNo 119 MilClass D Med 110/47 return to duty 7/4/43 (14 days SL) Cat  B1 (DD Med 25) 13/4/43

Detailed Record of Service:

10/7/1940Posted to 4th Battery, Field BrigadeUO 5/40/119
BlankTransfer from 14th Battery to “A” Battery H.Q.41/119
2/7/1941Embarked at Durban per 22 “Delwara” for Middle East with 5 Field Regiment SAAER 329
12/8/1941Disembarked at SuezF.O. 8/41/420 M.E.
8/5/1941Attached to Technical Services Workshop Premier Mine from A.T.C at PotchefstroomUO 19/41/363A
25/5/1941Taken on strength of “T” Services, remustered and attached 50 Field Regiment SAAUO 117/41/144
25/5/1941On strength Technical Service Workshop Premier Mine from XXX Artillery S.A.A.UO 23/41/363A
25/5/1941Rxxxxxet Corporal B Class to Acting Lance CorporalUO 23/41/363A
28/5/1941Transfer from Technical Workshop G to A.T.C PotchefstroomUO 22/41/363A
28/5/1941Transfer from Technical Services Workshop to attached 2nd DivisionUO 23/41/363A
2/6/1941Attached 5th Field Regiment SAA (P.R.) Ex Technical Services Workshops GeneralUO 30/41/363A
2/6/1941Promoted from Gxx to T/Corporal (B Class)UO 30/41/363A
UnknownAttached to 5 Field Regiment SAA Piet Retief Ex Technical ServicesUO 5/41/119
14/12/1941Admin to XXX and placed on General List from 5th Field Regiment S.A.A. F.O. 22/42/420 M.E.]
27/3/1942On strength T.S.C. General List ex 1 Con DepotF.O. 114/42/479 ME
27/3/1942Off strength General List
28/3/1942XXX List Personnel TSC on posting to 5th Field Regiment S.A.AFO 17/42/479 ME
22/4/1942On Strength T.S.C. General List ex 12 Field AmbulanceFO 32/42/479 ME
22/4/1942Off strength T.S.C. General List
2/7/1942Posted to 1 S.A. Division WorkshopsFO 32/42/479 ME
7/7/1942Temporarily detached to 1 SA Division Workshop (T.S.C.) from 5 Field Regiment SAAFO 30/48/420 ME
20/7/1942Ceases to be attached to 1 SA Division Workshops from 5 Field Battery SAAFO 30/42/551 ME
20/7/1942Adm Hosp placed on x 2 ListFO 30/42/420 ME
22/7/1942Ceases to be attached to 1 SA Division Workshops on being posted to 1 SA Division Workshops xxxx T.S.C. GenFO 32/42/551 ME
11/12/1942Embark at Suez (1st SA Division Workshop) ER 154FO 50/42/581 ME
1/1/1943Disembark at DurbanUO 1/43/953
1/1/1943Adv 2nd XXX. On Strength of 1 Medium Regiment. Posted to 2 Medium Battery (Attached personnel)UO 21/43/120
15/1/1943Transfer to Technical Services Workshop Premier Mine from 97 Detail Company T.S.C.UO 8/43/363
11/2/1943Reclassify from A.I. to D. 23 Force TroopsUO 9/43/953
14/2/1943On strength 97 Details TS ex 1 Div W/SUO 7/43/454
15/2/1943Transferred to 66 Technical Services General Workshop  ex 97 Details TSCUO 7/43/454
25/3/1943Sick leave to 7/4/1943 – 14 daysUO 15/43/363A
5/4/1943Rejoined 5 Field Regiment S.A.A from T.S.C. General List x 4OO 17/42/420 ME
19/5/1943To 1 Medium Regiment SAA from 66 Technical Service Workshop General T.S.C. Premier MineUO 22/43/363A
3/8/19431st Medium Regiment S.A.A. (S.A.H.A.) T.S.C. attached WitbankDD 88.B.R.
25/9/1943C/S 40 1st Medium Regiment SAAUO 47/43/120
4/12/1943Unfit for draftDD xxxx 116
8/1/1944Off strength 1st Medium Regiment SAA (SAHA) to T.S.C.UO 2/44/138
8/12/1944Attached to A.T.C. SAA 1st Medium Regiment SAAUO 9/44/136
17/1/1944From  ATT ATC (v) SAA Potchefstroom to ATT A&ACTC (v)UO 14/44/136
17/1/1944From ATT.ATC (v) SAA to ATT A&ACTC (v) PotchUO 1/44/1678
18/1/1944Xxxxx to AIACTC – PotchefstroomDD (Med) 116
27/1/1944Class C (CATD)DD (Med) 74RI
XXXXXXXRecl B.1. to CUO 19/44/1698
7/5/1944Class CDD Med 116
28/6/1944From Armt Artificer “B” to Fitter xxxx (Corporal)UO 156/44/1698
18/8/1944Posted to A&ACTC (v) PotchUO 209/44/1678
9/10/1944Awarded Africa Star and 8 [Army] Clasp  xxx WR 117/17/532(22)UO 238/44/1678
1/10/1944Promoted from T/Corporal to T/SergeantUO 231/44/1678
1/10/1944Promoted from Corporal to SergeantUO 25/44/1054
8/1/1945Adm to Military Hospital PotchUO 8/45/1678
15/1/1945Discharged from Military Hospital PotchUO 14/45/1678
BlankAwarded Africa Service MedalUO 19/42/698
22/10/1945On strength 6 Heavy Battery SAA ex Artillery – Armoured Corps transfer Centre – PotchUO 43/45/141
22/10/1945CTBA to AIRCTC Potch to 6 Heavy Battery (v) SAA Port ElizabethUO 245/45/1678
19/12/1945On strength Assembly Camp – First City Regiment – Port Elizabeth ex 6 Heavy BatteryUO 35/45/2023
19/12/1945Off strength 6 Heavy Battery SAA Port Elizabeth to Cxxxxx C xxxx- Assembly Camp Port ElizabethUO 49/45/14
5/1/1946Off strength Assembly Company to Demobilisation Centre for DischargeUO 4/46/2023
MiscellGranted 30 days 11/R.S.L. 4/1/1943 to 2/2/1943UO 1/43/907
MiscellGranted 7 days extra R/AUO 7/43/953
BlankGranted 4 days leave 5/10/1942 to 8/10/1942FO 41/42/551 ME
9/1/1946DischargedUO 4/46/2023


From attesting on 10th July 1940 until his final discharge on 9th January 1946, five and a half years later, Harry Clifford McCleland served his country in their time of need. Notwithstanding that, he never experienced one day of active service where his life was endangered.

In reality, it must have largely been a boring, wasteful period of his life. Most probably on discharge, he would have felt the need to compensate for lost time. That is what caused the baby boom as the post war explosion in births was referred to.



Many standard but the occasional idiosyncratic abbreviations are used in the Military Records. This is how they were interpreted.

7/- = 7 shillings

A/L/Cpl = Acting lance corporal

Amb = Ambulance

Armd = Armoured

Art = Artificer

Art = Artillery

A.T.C. = Unknown

Att = Attached

BDG = Brigade

Bty = Battery

Cpl = Corporal

Coy = Company

Demob = Demobilisation

Disc h= Discharge

Div = Division

FO = Field Order

Gnl = General

GNR = Gunner

GUN = Gunner

HB = Heavy battery

Hvy = Heavy

P/Mine = Premier Mine

Prom = Promoted

Reclass = Reclassify

Rej = Rejoined

Reg = Regiment

S.A.A = South African Artillery

SAHA = South African Heavy Artillery

SL = Sick leave

Str = Strength

Temp = Temporarily

Trf = Transferred

UO = Union Order

V = Volunteer

W/S = Workshops

W/Shops = Workshops

XXX = Illegible

Many of the abbreviations used are probably idiosyncratic and were no officially sanctioned. I have included all such abbreviations for the sake of completeness.


Actual military record cards:



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