Brig. Joseph Bell McCance O.B.E.  (1899-1949)

Photo taken at the time of his engagement.

Joseph was the son of Henry McCance, born in Edinburgh on 19th Sept 1899.  He was educated at Rugby and went to Sandhurst, (on a prize cadetship) in Sept 1917.  Like his father, he joined  the Royal Scots, and was made 2nd Lieutenant in Aug 1918.  He eventually, after a distinguished career in the Army, serving in India and Malta, rose to the rank of Brigadier.  (His obituary from "The Thistle" is reproduced below.)

Phyllis Turner

He married Phyllis Adah Turner, known as "Pat", who was the daughter of Charles and Kathleen Turner from Cumberland.  (Phyllis had a daughter, Jill, from her previous marriage to Ted Quilter).  Their twin children, Angus and Nathalie "Jean",  were born in Edinburgh in1928.

L-R:     Angus, Jill, Joe & Nathalie

He died suddenly, shortly after returning from Malta on 24 Jan 1949.

Joe and Pat in later years

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     Brigadier 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.

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