b. 21/03/1888 Southgate, London. d. 01/12/1917 Moeuvres Sector, France
Allastair Malcolm Cluny McReady-Diarmid (1888-1917) was born at 8, Grove Road, New Southgate, Middlesex, on the 21st March 1888. He was one of four sons born to civil servant Herbert Leslie Drew and Fanny Annie Drew, whose maiden name was McReady. He attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar Preparatory School, in Barnet, between 1897 and 1904, but in his final year his parents moved the family to Jersey, during which time McReady-Diarmid attended Victoria College. The family were on the move within a year and they returned to London, living at 71, Goldsmith Avenue, Acton. McReady-Diarmid continued his education upon return at Ealing Grammar. He joined the London University OTC, and on the 10th March 1915, when he was 26, he was commissioned into the 4th Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own).
According to records he was attached to the 14th (Reserve) Battalion between April and November 1915, and changed his name to McReady-Diarmid, when he was asked to by his Colonel as there were already enough men in the battalion named Drew and thought that the change would reduce the confusion that could ensue and the change was made legal by deed poll on the 10th September 1915. At some point during 1915, McReady-Diarmid had been wounded and spent four months in hospital before convalescing in Dursley, Gloucestershire. It was here that he met a nurse who was a local girl, the daughter of a tinsmith, Miss Hilda Dainton. The couple fell in love and married on the 20th September at St. James’ Parish Church, Dursley, and lived in Springfield, Dursley.
His family felt that he had married beneath himself which caused a rift which was never bridged, and after returning from his honeymoon, McReady-Diarmid returned to active service in October, and was due for more leave at the end of May 1916. However, for some reason, his name was removed from the battalion’s strength and it is believed that his wounds needed further time to heal. He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 1st July 1917, and to Acting Captain on the 26th October, and was granted a period of leave during which he was to meet his new daughter, Alison Hilda, who had been born at her grandparents’ home on the 24th May, for the first, and only, time.
On the 30th November / 1st December 1917 at the Moeuvres Sector, France, McReady-Diarmid, was in the thick of the fighting and carried out the deed which was to earn him a posthumous VC. The citation, which appeared in The London Gazette of the 15th March 1918, reads:
For most conspicuous bravery and brilliant leadership. When the enemy penetrated some distance into our position and the situation was extremely critical, Captain MoReady-Diarmid at once led his company forward through a heavy barrage. He immediately engaged the enemy, with such success that he drove them back at least 300 yards, causing numerous casualties and capturing 27 prisoners. The following day the enemy again attacked and drove back another company which had lost all its officers. This gallant officer at once called for volunteers and attacked. He drove them back again for 300 yards, with heavy casualties. Throughout this attack Captain McReady-Diarmid led the way himself, and it was absolutely and entirely due to his marvellous throwing of bombs that the ground was regained. His absolute disregard for danger, his cheerfulness and coolness at a most trying time inspired all who saw -him. This most gallant officer was eventually killed by a bomb when the enemy had been driven right back to their original starting point.”
McReady-Diarmid’s body was not recovered and he is commemorated on Panel 9 of the Louveral Memorial to the Missing. His wife Hilda, was presented with her late husband’s VC at Buckingham Palace on the 20th April 1918, and after the war his name was listed on the Dursley War Memorial, and on one of the two memorial panels on the Limestone memorial gate which was erected in 1922. McReady-Diarmid is also listed on the Victoria College Memorial on Jersey, along with another former pupil Lieutenant William Arthur McRae Bruce VC, who earned his posthumous VC at Givenchy in 1914, and both men were to have one of the five school houses named after them.
Hilda, attended the 1920 VC Garden Party along with her mother and on the 11th November 1929, Alison McReady-Diarmid, wore her father’s VC when she assisted Earl Jellicoe in laying a wreath at the Cenotaph. After the war Hilda and Alison had moved to St. Leonard’s-on-Sea, East Sussex, and remained there for the rest of their lives, but unfortunately Alison died at the early age of 48, in 1966. Seven years later her mother presented the VC and three service medals to the Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) and the were later acquired by the National Army Museum, Chelsea, where they are still held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM, CHELSEA, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE – ON CAMBRAI MEMORIAL, FRANCE. PANEL 9.
National Army Museum – Image of the McReady-Diarmid VC medal.
Ned Malet de Carteret – Images of the Sir Galahad Memorial, Victoria College, Jersey and the VC Board at Victoria College, Jersey.