Lieutenant Colonel Percy MACLEAR
1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers attached to the 2nd Nigeria Regiment, West African Frontier Force

Date of birth: 22nd October 1875
Date of death: 30th August 1914

Killed in action aged 38
Commemorated on the Lokoja Memorial in Nigeria
He was born at Canterbury on the 22nd of October 1875 the third son of Major Henry Wallich Maclear, East Kent Regiment, and Mary (nee Casey) of 2 Sussex Terrace, Portsea in Hampshire. He was christened on the 17th of December 1875 at St Mary’s Church, Hitchin in Hertfordshire.

He was educated at Cranleigh School from 1884 to December 1886 and at the King’s Canterbury from January 1887 to July 1889 going on to Bedford School in September 1889. He went on to the Royal Military College Sandhurst from 1894 to 1895. He was fond of football and played rugby for London Irish and for Sandhurst.

He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on the 27th of September 1895 becoming Lieutenant on the 11th of March 1897. From the 10th of February 1899 to the 28th of December 1902 he was adjutant of his battalion and he was promoted to Supernumerary Captain on the 24th of February 1900.

While adjutant he served in the South African War being present at the relief of Ladysmith and at operations in the Transvaal and at the Orange River Colony in 1900 and again in the Transvaal in 1901 and 1902. For his services he was mentioned in despatches on three occasions; on the 8th of February, on the 10th of September 1901 and on the 29th of July 1902. He was promoted to Brevet Major in September 1901 and received the Queen's Medal with five clasps and the King's Medal with two clasps.

He was attached to the Lagos Battalion of the Nigeria Regiment West African Frontier Force as second in command and adjutant, from the 25th of April 1903 to March 1908 during which time he commanded the operations in the Kwale-Ishan district in South Nigeria being in command of the regiment in 1905/6.

In October 1905 it was decided to send a force to quell unrest in the Kwale-Ishan District of Nigeria. This force met resistance on the 12th of October with three officers and 21 other ranks wounded by the rebels. A further force of 6 officers and 246 men was sent to the area, along with a 2.95 inch gun under the command of Percy Maclear. By December the unrest had been quelled and the ringleaders arrested. For these operations he was mentioned in despatches on the 18th of September 1906.

He was promoted to Captain on the 1st of April 1908.

He was married to Ethel (nee Phethean) on the 2nd of April 1908 at St Michael's Church, Great Lever in Lancashire. They lived at “Pine Cottage”, Camberley in Surrey and had a daughter, Emily Mary born on the 30th of November 1910.

In 1908 he was awarded the Royal Humane Society's award for saving life in the River Nile at Khartoum and was at the Staff College at Camberley in 1911 passing out in 1912.

He was promoted to Major on the 7th of April 1914 and to temporary Lieutenant Colonel when attached to the West African Frontier Force on the 15th of April 1914 commanding the 2nd Nigerian Battalion in the Cameroons.

Shortly after the outbreak of war three columns of infantry were detailed to move against Cameroon to prevent the use of the coastal bases there being used by German naval shipping. The columns were despatched from Yola, Ikom and Clabar.

Percy Maclear was in command of the northern column from Yola which consisted of the 2nd and 5th (Mounted Infantry) Battalion Nigeria Regiment was tasked with taking the northern part of Cameroon and preventing the enemy from withdrawing into the interior. Both battalions moved to Yola, a march of some 400 miles in the rainy season and by late August were in position to move on Cameroon.

It is thought that Maclear's preparations for the attack were inadequate not least of all because the quality of the maps was very poor. On the 25th of August Maclear ordered a move on Tepe a small town about 30 miles inside the border. The 5th Battalion led the way but came into contact with German troops and there was a sharp skirmish and the Germans were forced to retire. After dark on the 29th of August the 2nd Battalion under Maclear moved out to attack the fortified town of Garua and arrived there at around midnight. The two sides surprised each other in the dark and one of the German earthworks was rushed but Maclear decided to withdraw and entrench to try again in the morning. At 4.30am the Germans took the initiative and counterattacked using their Maxim machine guns which heavily outgunned the British who were cut down in large numbers and the native troops panicked leaving most of their officers and NCOs behind in the trenches.

Percy Maclear was killed in the fighting and Captain Adams assumed command and led his force back to Yola. Casualties during the fighting had been ten out of twenty five officers killed with two hundred and fifty out of six hundred other ranks killed, wounded or missing. Garua finally fell in June 1915 and on the 13th of June a funeral service was held over the graves of the men who had fallen the previous August.

His wife applied for his medals on the 21st of December 1919.

His brother, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Maclear DSO (OKS) 13th Battalion Royal Scots, was killed in action on the 15th of March 1916.

He is commemorated on the war memorial at St Martin’s Church, Bedford, on the memorial at Camberley in Surrey, on the memorial at Bedford School and on the memorial at Cranleigh School.