BRIGADIER JOSEPH BELL McCANCE,
Joseph Bell McCance died suddenly at the Tiverton and District Hospital,
near his home, on Monday, 24th Jan, 1949, shortly after he had arrived
home to take up the duties of Deputy Commander, Lowland District, from
Malta, where he was Brigadier, Chief of Staff.
The death of a serving officer, at a relatively
early age, will always produce a feeling of shock and sorrow, particularly
amongst his Regimental friends and contemporaries.
This feeling will obviously vary according to the
personality and characteristics of the officer concerned, but in the case
of Joe McCance it is almost impossible to find words to describe
adequately the sense of loss sustained by all Royal Scots who knew him.
Perhaps the best impression may be given by the
views of those who served with him, and particularly those junior to him,
during the period between the two wars.
Although he held important staff appointments
during and after the 1939-45 War, Joe McCance was first and foremost a
Regimental officer, having joined the Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant in
1918. Like his father before him, the famous Regimental historian,
all his energy and activities were inspired solely by his love of, and
devotion to, everything Royal Scot.
He had very strong views as to what was best and
right for the Regiment, particularly in respect of how young officers
should behave, not only amongst themselves, but in their dealings towards
their men. His strong personality enforced these views rigidly,
sometimes mercilessly, and sometimes not without a certain amount of
mental anguish for the young officers concerned; but there is not one of
them living today who does not wholeheartedly agree that he was absolutely
right and who does not realize the great benefits of McCance's
character-forming instruction when he was "senior-subaltern."
One of Joe McCance's chief interests lay in all
outdoor sports, in most of which he excelled, particularly as a shot, a
cricketer and, in his youth, a Rugby player. He was keenest of all
about anything concerned with a horse. A notable performer himself,
is spite of ever-increasing weight, his chief anxiety was that young
officers should take an interest and become proficient in the various
forms of equitation which were available to, and in the capacity of, the
ordinary infantry officer.
During the 1st Battalion tour in Aldershot -
1929-33 - the great amount of fun and no little success which was had in
hunting, show-jumping, point-to-point racing and steeplechasing was due to
his inspiration, leadership and example. Incidentally, during this
period, and ably assisted by his wife, Joe McCance was one of the most
popular and efficient Secretaries of the Aldershot Command Drag Hounds.
This same inspiration and leadership was just as
much in evidence during the 2nd Battalion's tour in India - 1933-37.
Here the chief interests were polo and racing, and the final achievement
of the 2nd Battalion winning the Infantry Polo Cup in 1937 can well and
truly be ascribed to Joe McCance's initial effort to get the game going
within the Battalion.
Another outstanding characteristic, obvious to
all who met him, was that he was a wonderful "mixer." His
terrific sense of humour and capacity for fun earned for him a popularity
outside the Regiment equal to the affection which he so deservedly enjoyed
within it. This was especially noticeable during his stay in Malta -
1946-48 - where his position as Chief of Staff gave him great scope to
exercise this trait to the full, and at the same time, to exert an intense
but fatherly interest in the 2nd Battalion, who were stationed there part
of the time.
To his family, Pat, the twins and Jill, we can
offer with genuine sincerity much more than stereotyped expressions of
condolence. We knew him and loved him, not only for himself but also
for the lasting impressions for the good which he made on us. Our
sympathy, therefore, to his wife and children is tempered with a little of
the magnitude of their loss.
D. A. D. E.