Macpherson, George


He was the son of George and Hilda Macpherson of Penn, near Wolverhampton and came to Winchester from Lockers’ Park. For his last three years he represented his house in Turner and Hawkins Cups; he was in OTH XV in 1913 and 1914, and on dress for OTH VI in the same years. He was Senior Commoner Prefect from 1914 to 1915 and became Head of his House.  He played for two years in the soccer XI.

He obtained a commission soon after leaving school in the East Kent Regiment and was transferred from there in April 1916 to the Machine Gun Corps, eventually joining the world’s first tank unit.

He fell at Flers on September 15th, 1916, in the first ever tank attack. Macpherson’s tank was in support of an attack on the German stronghold called The Quadrilateral, just east of Ginchy. None of the tank commanders had had an opportunity to reconnoitre the route and were dependent on special guides using shrouded lamps and luminous discs to lead them in the dark through a multitude of obstacles. Shortly after leaving Chimpanzee Valley, Macpherson’s tank developed engine trouble which took half an hour to sort out, but a short distance further on it broke down again. Apart from one tank, which on its own was ineffectual, none of the tanks succeeded in getting through the German wire. By mid-morning a reserve tank had arrived and Macpherson decided to accompany it in his original tank, which he had just managed to get started again. Basil Henriques in “The Indiscretions of a Warden”, published in 1937, and who was a good friend of Macpherson, recounts : “Just as I was reporting to the Brigadier commanding the infantry, I met George, who had got his tank to go. He looked aghast at my blood-stained face [Henriques and his crew had been injured by slivers of steel dislodged by bulletstrikes on the exterior of their tank], and then with a smile got into his tank and went off to follow up the slowly advancing infantry. It was the last I saw of him. I have never heard how his tank fared. I only know he was a great hero off the field of battle, and I am sure he must have been one on it.”

Macpherson fell in action on 15th September 1916 and was taken to No 34 Casualty Clearing Station, at Grove Town Station near Albert, where he died later that afternoon. He lies in the cemetery there and is commemorated on a marble plaque in St Bartholomew’s Church, Penn, Wolverhampton.

Macpherson was not the only Wykehamist to die that day on the Somme: ten others were killed or mortally wounded, including Captain Arthur Innes Adam (Coll.1907-1912, 1/1st Cambridgeshire Regiment); Lieutenant Raymond Asquith (Coll.1892-1897, 3rd Grenadier Guards), the son of the Prime Minister; Lieutenant-Colonel Eric William Benson MC (A1901-1906, 9th KRRC); Major Charles Blair-Wilson (I1908-1913, 42nd Canadian Infantry); Lieutenant Warine Frederick Martindale (B1907-1912, 1st Scots Guards); Captain Desmond Clere Parsons (E1903-1908, 2nd Irish Guards); Lance Corporal 73832 Henry Mark Ruddock (H1908-1913, 28th Canadian Infantry); 2nd Lieutenant Evelyn Godfrey Worsley (A1898-1903, 3rd Grenadier Guards); 2nd Lieutenant Geoffrey Wilfrid Penfold Wyatt (D1909-1915, 1st East Kent Regiment); and Lieutenant Raymond Gilbert Hooker Yeatherd (F1904-1908, 2nd Dragoon Guards) (see individual entries).

Winchester College’s archives contain a letter from Lieutenant Geoffrey Wyatt’s brother Oliver to their former housemaster, Horace Jackson (“The Jacker”). It is dated November 14th 1916, and mentions George Macpherson.    “Dear Mr Jackson, I think it was exceedingly kind of you to write to me to sympathize about Geoffrey. Of course it has made another great gap in the family, and it is very sad. But the Christian side makes so much of it seem wright [sic]. I don’t know if you realized that he and George Macpherson died on the same day in the same district. As you know, they were the greatest friends in the world, and it is very wonderful and beautiful that they should have died together. They met in France on the Sunday before for the first time for some months, and Geoffrey sat in his ‘tank’ and talked for a good deal of the afternoon. I am sure they would have liked to die together as they did.”

 

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Macpherson
  • Forenames or initials: George
  • House: I
  • Years in School: 1909-1915
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Machine Gun Corps
  • Date of Birth: 7th March 1896
  • Date of Death: 15th September 1916
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer F1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: GROVE TOWN CEMETERY, MEAULTE: Grave I.C.19