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Bob McCrum

Soldier and taxi driver;

Born: February 13, 1920; Died: October 20, 2012.

Bob McCrum, who has died aged 92, was a soldier and part of the famed Chindits who carried out operations deep into Japanese-held Burma during the Second World War. Climbing over high mountains, through steaming, leech-infested jungles and wading through deep, fast-flowing rivers, he and his fellow Chindits gained a fearsome reputation.

He was born in Hamilton where he learned from his parents the qualities he always respected and lived by: hard work and integrity. His father, Robert, was a miner and his mother Isabella supplemented the family income by making and selling boiled sweets from her home. They were both stalwarts of the Salvation Army.

On leaving school, he went to work as a farm hand and, like many other young men in the district, later joined the Territorial Lanarkshire Yeomanry cavalry for the fun, camaraderie and adventure experienced on parade nights and at annual camps.

With the outbreak of war, this all changed when he and the others became full-time soldiers. After training at Lanark, he and his fellow Gunners of the newly formed 155th (Lanarkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery, were sent to India in preparation for action in the North African Desert against Rommel's Afrika Corps.

Then, in August, 1941, the Gunners were given a shock. They were to be split up, with his battery being sent to Quetta near the Afghan border and the other two batteries dispatched to Malaya to bolster defences against the possibility of a Japanese attack. As history now records, that attack did happen and the Gunners in Malaya were eventually taken prisoner after the fall of Singapore and spent the next three-and-a-half years on the death railway or in other Japanese hell camps spread throughout the Far East.

As for Mr McCrum, he had escaped one hell for another when he became part of the Chindits. His earlier life with the former Lanarkshire Yeomanry cavalry came in handy when controlling the contrary mules, the pack animals that carried weapons, radio equipment and food for the marauding warriors.

Eventually, he was given a rest and returned to Britain, where he instructed new recruits to the Royal Artillery. It was on the training base in Wales he met Agnes Kilday, a girl from West Calder then serving with the ATS. They became engaged and in September 1945 were married in the West Kirk in West Calder.

The young couple initially set up home in Hamilton, but Agnes pined for her family in West Calder so they moved back and settled in Addiewell. Mr McCrum followed his father's occupation, and began work in Burngrange Pit before setting out on business on his own, first with a delivery van and then with the taxi business which he ran until he was 74.

A true gentleman, he always put others first and his favourite saying was: "Mind if ye faw, jist keep on running."

His wife predeceased him. He is survived by his daughters Betty and Ella.

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