Home Page

31773 SERGEANT HAROLD THOMAS MALCOLM
South African Engineer Corps
(formerly with the 1st Battalion, Transvaal Scottish)
by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis 2008

The Ancestry of Harold Thomas Malcolm

Harold Thomas Malcolm could trace his roots back to Scotland. His grandparents were Thomas and Janet Malcolm of Peebles, Scotland. Thomas and Janet had a son, Adam Neil, who was born in 1874. Adam Neil Malcolm emigrated to South Africa. He and his wife May had a son, Harold Thomas, the subject of this research. Adam Neil and May Malcolm lived at 57, De Villiers Street in Johannesburg, Transvaal prior to the start of the Great War of 1914-1918.

His Father’s Service in the Great War

Adam Neil Malcolm enlisted in the South African Army to fight in the Great War in Europe. At the time of his enlistment he was over 40 years of age. Upon his enlistment he was posted as a Private, Regimental Number 88, to the 4th Battalion (South African Scottish Regiment), South African Infantry. His unit was one of the four battalions comprising the South African Infantry Brigade.

Private Malcolm and his unit arrived in England early in November 1915 and were initially quartered at Halton Camp in Buckinghamshire. The unit then moved to Bordon in Hampshire where for two months they were busy with training and inspections.

The South African Brigade subsequently was attached to the 16th (Irish) Division for service in France. On the 7th of December 1915, plans were altered and the brigade was deployed to Egypt. The four battalions embarked from Devonport on the 30th of December and disembarked at Alexandria early in January 1916 where they were stationed at Mex Camp.

The South African Brigade took part in operations against the Turks threatening the Suez Canal Zone and against Senussi tribesmen stirred up in western Egypt. At the conclusion of the short campaign, the brigade was transferred to France, docking in Marseilles on the 19th of April 1916. Owing to a case of sickness on board their troopship, HMT Oriana, Private Malcolm and the rest of the 4th South African Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel F.A. Jones, were placed in quarantine and moved to a camp at La Valentine, a farm outside of Marseilles. The remainder of the brigade entrained for Flanders.

When the 4th Battalion, South African Infantry rejoined the brigade it was under the command of the British 9th (Scottish) Division. The brigade had joined the 9th Division on the 1st of May 1916 and immediately began training in trench warfare at Le Bizet. On Wednesday, the 31st of May, Malcolm and his mates began the long march to the Somme, a distance of about 50 miles. By this time, Malcolm had been promoted to the rank of Corporal. They arrived at Enguingatte on Sunday the 4th of June, where they underwent additional training for the "Big Push" scheduled for the 1st of July 1916. This training involved new bayonet fighting instructions and rapid loading practice.

The intensive training at Enguingatte came to an end on the 14th of June. The South Africans were issued with gas helmets and ammunition and then marched to Ailly-sur-Somme. They reached Corbie on the 24th of June and then continued on to Welcome Wood. The next night the brigade marched via Bray-sur-Somme to Suzanne. On the 29th of June the brigade moved from Suzanne to Grove Town Camp.

The great British offensive on the Somme began on the 1st of July 1916. The South African Brigade saw action at Bernafay Wood and Trones Wood and attacked Longueval Village on the 14th of July. On Saturday, the 15th of July, the brigade’s objective was Delville Wood.

During the attack on Delville Wood, "B" and "C" companies of the 4th Battalion were ordered to Longueval to follow up and consolidate after the 5th Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders attacked Waterlot Farm. The companies were ordered to occupy the orchards to the northwest of Waterlot Farm and to remain there in reserve. The companies moved to this position under heavy shell fire that caused about 25 casualties. While "B" and "C" companies supported the 5th Camerons in their attack, "A" and "D" companies of the 4th Battalion moved rapidly into Delville Wood. The German gunners drenched Longueval, Delville Wood and the rear areas with shells, almost obliterating the wood and reducing the houses in the village to rubble. Under this heavy rain of shells, the South Africans had to clear paths and small communications trenches of rubble in order to bring up ammunition and replacements for their casualties. It was not possible to bring out the wounded for hours at a time, and then a lot of them were killed or wounded again on their way to the rear lines. During this bloody battle for Waterlot Farm and Delville Wood, Corporal Adam Neil Malcolm was killed. It is not known to which company Corporal Malcolm was assigned on the 15th of July 1916 or precisely how he was killed. Based on the description of the action on that day, it may be safe to assume that Malcolm was killed by enemy artillery fire during the attacks on Waterlot Farm or on Delville Wood itself. Corporal Adam Neil Malcolm’s death is commemorated on Pier and Face 4c of the Thiepval Memorial at Somme, France.

A more detailed description of the service of the 4th Battalion, South African Infantry, from the time of its departure from South Africa until the date of Corporal Malcolm’s death, may be found in the Appendix.

The Roll of Honour for the 4th Battalion, South African Infantry lists 24 men killed on

the 15th of July 1916. A list of those casualties may be found in the table below.

Regimental Number

Surname

Given Names

Rank

6073

Cameron

John

RSM

502

Matthews

Walter John

Corporal

3903

Horn

Harold

Lance Corporal

5279

Logan (1)

William

Lance Corporal

88

Malcolm

Adam Neil

Lance Corporal

2097

Bradfield

A.W. (2)

Private

2092

Brown

Cecil Pierce

Private

184

Burleigh

John

Private

469

Cairns

John McGilvray

Private

34

Cullen

Joseph

Private

14

Dingwall

Thomas

Private

5069

Hewitt

Edward James

Private

 

Johns (3)

F.

Private

3119

Mays (4)

John William

Private

5440

Mc Cabe (5)

Arthur Basil

Private

3918

Mc Callum

Cecil Fidelis

Private

 

Mc Donald (6)

R.

Private

3321

Mc Kinnon

James Baxter

Private

1874

Merrington

George Walter

Private

3486

Miller

W. (7)

Private

2174

Pilbrow

James D. (8)

Private

5086

Skillen

Andrew

Private

5255

Webster (9)

Leslie Garnet

Private

 

Wills (10)

W.C.

Private

Table Notes:

1. Uys’ Roll of Honour gives this man’s name as Logal. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register has him listed as Logan.
2. No names for this man are supplied in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register.
3. No record for this man is listed in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register.
4. Uys’ Roll of Honour lists this man as killed on 15 July 1916. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register lists him as died on 18 July 1916. He was probably wounded on the 15th and died of wounds on the 18th.
5. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register lists this man as having served in "D" Company.
6. No record for this man is listed in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register.
7. No names for this man is supplied in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register. Uys’ Roll of Honour lists this man as killed on 15 July 1916. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register lists him as died on 16 July 1916. He was probably wounded on the 15th and died of wounds on the 16th.
8. No middle name for this man is supplied in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register.
9. Uys’ Roll of Honour lists this man as killed on 15 July 1916. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register lists him as died on 16 July 1916. He was probably wounded on the 15th and died of wounds on the 16th.
10. No record for this man is listed in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register.

Early Life and Personal Data

Prior to his enlistment in the South African Army, Harold Thomas Malcolm was a motorman. His next of kin at the start of the war was his widowed mother, Mrs. D.T. (May) Malcolm of No. 2, 17th Street, Malvern, Johannesburg, South Africa. Malcolm’s military service papers indicate that his religion was Presbyterian.

Enlistment

Harold Thomas Malcolm, following in his father’s footsteps, enlisted in the Transvaal Scottish Regiment on the 20th of May 1940 at Premier Mine in the town of Cullinan, to the east of Pretoria. He was posted to Headquarters Company of the 1st Battalion of the regiment that had been mobilized on the same day as his enlistment. The commander of Malcolm’s battalion was Lieutenant Colonel D.F. Smitheman, E.D.

An Infantryman in South Africa

The 1st Battalion Transvaal Scottish was assigned to the 1st South African Brigade Group under the command of Colonel John Daniel. Besides the 1st Transvaal Scottish, the brigade consisted of the 1st Battalion, Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Rifles (Lieutenant Colonel G.T. Senescall) and the 1st Battalion of the Royal Natal Carabiniers (Lieutenant Colonel Len Hay, M.C.).

Soon after its formation, the brigade was issued transport sufficient for one motorized battalion. This transport was assigned to the 1st Transvaal Scottish. Malcolm’s unit, as the brigade’s duty battalion at that time, was ordered to Komatipoort on the Laurenco Marques-Pretoria railway line, right on the Portuguese East African border. This move took place on the night of the 10th of June 1940, the day before South Africa officially declared war on Italy.

The 1st South African Infantry Brigade assembled at Sonderwater, a town located due east of Cullinan. The brigade took part in a farewell parade attended by General J.C. Smuts, the Chief of the General Staff. The date was the 13th of July 1940 and it was being celebrated as Delville Wood Day, the solemn anniversary of that heroic battle on the Western Front in July 1916 when the South African Brigade of 3,032 men had gone into Delville Wood, to suffer 2,815 casualties (among them Harold Thomas Malcolm’s father). One can only imagine Private Malcolm’s emotions on that day as he prepared to go to war and thought about his father’s death 24 years before.

Twenty four hours after General Smuts’s visit, the 1st South African Infantry Brigade entrained for Durban. Embarkation began on the 15th of July and Private Malcolm and his battalion sailed on the 16th of July in the Dilwara, bound for Mombasa.

War Service in East Africa

The 1st Transvaal Scottish disembarked at Mombasa on the 24th of July 1940 and entrained for camp at Gilgil, a dusty Indian trading village located 82 miles north of Nairobi and set in beautiful country on the Kenya Highlands, between Lake Naivasha and Lake Elmenteita. In this camp the battalion settled down to serious training for the upcoming campaign. While at Gilgil, the command of the battalion changed. Lieutenant Colonel Smitheman was appointed Officer Commanding Troops in the Gilgil area. He was succeeded as Officer Commanding, 1st Transvaal Scottish by Major E.P. Hartshorn, DCM, ED, the one-armed Brigade Major of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade.

On the 6th of September 1940, it was decided to send the 1st Transvaal Scottish to join the 2nd East African Brigade and to place it under British command. The battalion duly moved off on the 18th of September for Habaswein for attachment and took part in an exercise from the 24th to the 26th of September at a place called Melka-Galla in Kenya. On the 30th of September the 1st Transvaal Scottish relieved a company of the 1st King’s African Rifles at Point 709, about 40 miles north-by-east of Melka-Galla on the Arba Jahan road, close to the wells of Dololo.

While attached to the 2nd East African Brigade, the 1st Transvaal Scottish were given training in general adaptation to bivouacking in the bush, personal cleanliness and tidiness, organization and cleanliness of bivouac areas, field sanitation, preventive measures against all kinds of sickness and chills, and local protective and security measures. Additionally, the officers, NCO’s and men were to take part in patrols and minor operations conducted by the more experienced troops of the 2nd East African Brigade.

The first action involving South African ground forces in World War II occurred near Liboi when a column was attacked by a force of Banda and Italian Colonial infantry, who were beaten off. The 1st Transvaal Scottish took part in many patrolling actions during this period in September and October of 1940. Although it is difficult to determine where or when from the South African Official History of the War, it appears that Private Malcolm was captured by the Italians during one of these patrol actions.

Malcolm’s service papers contain the following entry: "ex P.O.W. 16/11/40." This entry is interpreted to mean that on some date prior to the 16th of November 1940 Malcolm was captured and then returned to South African control on the 16th of November. His papers also contain the following two entries:

"Embarked at Mombasa [on] SS [Llanstephair] 28/11/40"

and

"Emb. for Union 28/11/40"

Both of these entries would seem to indicate that he sailed for South Africa on the 28th of November 1940, twelve days after being released from prisoner of war status. He disembarked at Durban on the 4th of December 1940. At this time, the 1st Transvaal Scottish were preparing for the raid on El Wak, a series of five defended localities straddling the frontier some 110 miles northwest of Wajir in Kenya.

Return to South Africa

Private Malcolm’s return to South Africa, while his unit was still campaigning in East Africa, can probably be explained by his need for medical attention as a result of injuries or mistreatment while a prisoner of war. After his return home, he appears to have been given about 2 months leave. On the 4th of February 1940 he was transferred from the 1st Battalion Transvaal Scottish (East Africa) to the Central Army Training Depot (C.A.T.D.).

Private Malcolm served at the C.A.T.D. for about 16 months. On the 27th of May 1941 he was taken on the strength of the Right Wing of the C.A.T.D. and on the 2nd of June 1941 he was transferred from the C.A.T.D. to the Engineer Reserve Training Depot (E.R.T.D.). At this time he was also transferred to the South African Engineer Corps (S.A.E.C.) and his rank was changed from Private to Sapper.

Service with the Engineers

Sapper Malcolm was appointed to the rank of Temporary Corporal on the 8th of December 1941. On the 18th of December he was classified as a Motor Transport Mechanic, and on the following day he was transferred from the E.R.T.D. to the Engineer Training Center (E.T.C.). Corporal Malcolm was promoted to the rank of Acting Sergeant on the 21st of August 1942, without the pay and allowances of the rank.

Sergeant Malcolm was hospitalized on the 28th of October 1942 and placed on the "X" list. His service records do not indicate the reason for his admission to hospital. He continued to serve at home and his records show that he went on 6 days leave between the 10th and the 15th of May 1943. On the 1st of June 1943 he was classified as a non-Artisan, with the rank of Corporal.

On the 10th of August 1943, Corporal Malcolm was transferred from the E.T.C. back to the E.R.T.D. From this point on he appears to have suffered from a period a bad health, perhaps related to his captivity in East Africa. On the 20th of August he was admitted to hospital at Spitzkop to the northwest of Pietermaritzburg and remained there until the 28th of August. He was readmitted to hospital on the 12th of October and was subsequently discharged on the 8th of November. On the 13th of November 1943, Malcolm was transferred from the E.R.T.D. to the Base Sub Depot at a military base known as Hay Paddock Camp. Malcolm was reclassified B.1 on the 24th of November and on the 26th of November he was struck off the strength of the Base Sub Depot at Hay Paddock Camp and embarked at Durban on board the SS Highland Brigade with Egypt as his destination.

Service in Egypt

Up to this point Malcolm had only been a Temporary Corporal. On the 8th of December 1943, while at sea enroute to Egypt, he was promoted to the rank of Corporal. Malcolm disembarked at Suez on the 16th of December and was immediately placed on the S.A.E.C. General List - "X" List. On the 26th of December he was struck off the strength of the S.A.E.C. General List and "X" List and was posted to 83 Engineer Stores Base Depot (E.S.B.D.) at Fanara.

Formed at Sonderwater in January of 1941, the unit had arrived at Port Tewfik and established itself at Fanara on the 24th of June 1941, to remain there for the next four and a half years. The unit had been the main supply base for engineer stores for the invasion of Sicily in July of 1943 and had played a very important part in the preparation of stores into manpacks for the Sicily operation and for the landings in Italy. A Spares Section of 83 E.S.B.D. had embarked for Taranto and duty in Central Mediterranean Forces in October of 1944, and it was operating there and in Greece until mid-January 1945.

Corporal Malcolm was hospitalized on the 9th of August 1944 and placed on the S.A.E.C. "X2" List. After his discharge from hospital he rejoined 83 Engineer Stores Base Depot. The work of 83 E.S.B.D. at this time, following the end of the war with Germany, included instructing Royal Engineer personnel in taking over those units that the Depot had controlled. So vast had the Depot’s activities been, that is was reckoned that the value of material it had recovered after the cessation of hostilities, in the form of timber, nails and bolts for motor transport packing cases alone ran to more than 2,600,000 South African Rand (or 1,312,170 Pounds Sterling at that time).

Corporal Malcolm continued to serve with this unit until the 1st of July 1945 when he was struck off its strength and placed on the "X4" List for repatriation back to South Africa.

Return to South Africa

Corporal Malcolm embarked for home on the 8th of July 1945 and disembarked at Durban. He remained at the Base Depot at Durban until the 25th of August 1945 when he was transferred to Johannesburg. His discharge from the Army was authorized on the 28th of August, but he was not finally discharged until the 3rd of September 1945.

For his service during the war, Corporal Malcolm was awarded the following medals:

1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, and Africa General Service Medal. According to his service papers, his medals were dispatched to him on the 27th of January 1955.

REFERENCES

Books

1. HARTSHORN, Brigadier E.P. Avenge Tobruk. Purnell & Sons (S.A.) (PTY.) LTD., Cape Town, December 1960.
2. ORPEN, N. South African Forces in World War II: East African and Abyssinian Campaigns. Volume I. Purnell, Cape Town, 1968.
3. ORPEN, N. & MARTIN, H.J. South African Forces in World War II: Salute the Sappers. Volume 8 - Part 2. Sappers Association, Johannesburg, 1982.
4. UYS, I. Delville Wood. Uys Publishers, Rensburg,1983.

Documents

D.D. Form 293. Record of Service of Harold Thomas Malcolm.

Maps

1. AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION. AA Motorists Atlas of Great Britain. Basingstoke, 1984.
2. MAP STUDIO. Street Plan of Johannesburg, Randburg and Sandton. Wynburg, S.A., no imprint.

Periodicals

UYS, I. The South Africans at Delville Wood. The South African Military History Society, Military History Journal - Vol. 7, No. 2. Printed from the Society Website.

Internet

1. COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION. Registry of Honour.
2. MICROSOFT EXPEDIA MAPS. http:\www.expediamaps.com.

Software

Map ‘N Facts.