Obituary: William McCulloch, Scot awarded Military Cross and Légion d’honneur

Chevalier William Scott McCulloch MC MA BL. Born: 2 January, 1922, in Lochee. Died: 8 June, 2021 in Kinnordy, aged 99
William Scott McCulloch worked in local government for 50 yearsWilliam Scott McCulloch worked in local government for 50 years
William Scott McCulloch worked in local government for 50 years

William Scott McCulloch was born in Lochee to Willie and Margaret McCulloch. Willie was a veteran of the Second World War, having served with the Royal Horse Artillery riding with the guns to the front of battle. William was the elder of two sons and did well at Harris Academy Dundee, but left aged 14 to help with the family finances.

In 1937, he was recruited into the Dundee City Council to work in the office of the town clerk and the start of 50 years of service to local government. It was in this pre-war period that he met Jean Hughes who also worked in the council offices and who was to become the love of his life and his wife of 66 years.

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In 1942, he was awarded his Bachelor of Law degree from St Andrews University and was immediately recruited from the University OTC into the same regiment as his father, the Royal Horse Artillery. After training at Alton Towers he joined his unit in Orkney as Regimental Survey Officer. In 1944, he joined Jerboa Battery, new in from the North Africa and he crossed the Channel on D-Day-plus four, atop a lorry in a Landing Craft heading for Juno Beach.

Subsequently, he was attached to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps fighting with the Canadians on the advance to the Rhine when he was awarded the Military Cross, the citation of which read:

“On 2nd March 1943, Lieut. W. S. McCulloch was attached to a Motor Company of the 2d K.R.R.C. as F.O.O. The Company were ordered to attack the well-prepared Hochwald defences and establish a bridgehead over an anti-tank ditch to enable the tanks to force a crossing. Lieut. McCulloch followed the leading platoons on foot with the Company Commander, and they proceeded to crossing the ditch, but the platoons were then engaged with heavy small-arms fire and took cover in a wood. The Company Commander went forward to get the platoons on to the objective but was mortally wounded by M.G. fire. Lieut. McCulloch, with the help of a Sergeant and his signaller, carried the Company Commander to a house, where he applied first aid. He was then the only officer left in this area and, seeing that the enemy was forming up for a counterattack, he completely disregarded the heavy and accurate fire being put down by the enemy and crossed the open stretch to the wood. He collected some men from a platoon there, re-crossed the open country again and sited them in a defensive position in the house. The enemy counter attacked and he and the men he had taken charge of were able to hold them and they were driven off.

"When he had made sure that the area of the house was firm, he walked back to a troop of tanks and told them that the bridgehead was now firm. He then returned to his carrier and gave a full report of the situation over his wireless. This was the first information that Battalion HQ. had received about this attack as the Company's wireless had been destroyed.

"Throughout all the period, Lieut. McCulloch had been under continuous shell, mortar and Nebelwerfer fire and was sniped at many times. But he remained cool and re-established himself as F.O.O. an soon as the situation had cleared."

Shortly afterwards, he was given a field promotion to the rank of Captain. As the war ended, he was assigned to assist with the re-building of the German local government structure, helping the country return to some semblance of normality.

After the war, William returned to Dundee City Council and continued his courtship with Jean. By the rules of the time, Jean and William could not both work with the council and Jean was forced to resign. They married on 20 December, 1947.

They would go on to have three sons – Douglas, Colin and Neil – between 1950 and 1955, and in 1956, at the age of 34 William left Dundee to take up the position of Town Clerk in Forfar.

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He would serve the Council successively as Depute County Clerk and Chief Executive for its successor bodies for the next 31 years.

He was held in high esteem and admired by his colleagues for his tact and diplomacy as local government moved to a politicised regime with representation of national politics rather than local independents.

As much as his duties would allow, William was a full participant in the social activities in Forfar but on those days of voluntary councillors, most of his evenings were taken up with attending council meetings.

This did not stop him being an active member of the Amateur Dramatic Society, the Historical Society, the Bridge Club and both the badminton and golf clubs. It was inevitable that he would be persuaded to assist in the running of some of the clubs, including being honoured to be elected President of Forfar Golf Club, but it was in his role of Assistant Chief Executive of Angus that put him in the dining room of the Carnoustie Hotel on the last day of the Open in 1968 where he met the winner of the day, Gary Player. These were less commercial days.

Holidays between 1961 to 1972 were a bit more adventurous, taking his family by road from Forfar to camping sites all over Europe, from Spain to Tito’s Yugoslavia, facing two ferry crossings before reaching Edinburgh, in the days pre-motorways and in cars dating from the late-1950s.

On one crossing of the Channel, he flew his family from Lydd in Sussex to Le Touquet aboard a Silver City Superfreighter, a notable trip because the car went too – a flying start to the holiday indeed.

William retired in 1987. He didn’t hold much truck with the awards system but had the honour of a street being named after him in Forfar as a mark of his contributions. Even then he protested that it should have been done after his death. It would have been a long wait.

Both he and Jean were able bridge players, playing at tables around Scotland and on several cruises combining their sport with tourism. William also developed his interest in local history, writing several booklets which are added to the Historical Society library.

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As a retirement present, he returned to the Normandy beaches with one of his sons and re-traced his wartime route to Holland.

Jean suffered from dementia for a long number of years and William attended to her until her death in July 2013 at the age of 90, after 66 years of marriage. His grief was assuaged by the arrival in November of that year of his first great grandchild, followed by a further three over the next four years, giving William a new lease of life and the chance to travel to London and Yorkshire in his early 90s.

In 2018, William had what was to be his last outing from Forfar when he was invited by the French Consul in Edinburgh to be invested with the Légion d’honneur, the highest honour of France, an award which he took great pleasure in receiving and great honour in possessing.

William died at Abbey House, Kinnordy on 8 June 2021 with the cause of death being “frailty due to old age”. If death comes and come it must, it was a gentle death for a gentle man. He is survived by three sons, three granddaughters and four great grandchildren.


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