Colonel William Grant Macpherson
CMG (1902) KHP (1912) CB (1916) DSM MA (Ed 1879) DPH (Camb 1893)
27 Jan 1857 [Kilmuir Ross-shire] – 15 Oct 1927 [London]
William Grant Macpherson was the third son of Reverend William Macpherson. He was born in the Manse of Kilmuir Easter, Ross-shire.
He was educated at Fettes College, being one of the original fifty-one boys with which the school opened in 1870, under Dr A W Potts. From Fettes College, he proceeded to the University of Edinburgh, where he took up arts, graduating with honours in classics in 1879, and MB CM in 1882.
He was champion boxer and one of the best gymnasts of his year at Edinburgh University. Macpherson gained a travelling scholarship, and went to Tubingen and Leipzig, where he combined the study of medicine with that of German and logic.
3 Feb 1883 Commissioned Surgeon-Captain. Proceeded to India. While at Quetta his racing matches brought him one of his most valued trophies, a cup.
3 Feb 1895 Surgeon-Major.
1892–1897 On duty in Gibraltar, where, having obtained the Diploma in Public Health Cambridge, he was appointed the first Medical officer of Health Gibraltar. For a time he edited the Gibraltar Chronicle. He raced, hunted with the Calpe hounds, and played polo.
1892–1896 While at Gibraltar he was sent in medical charge of Sir C Euan Smith's Mission to Fez in 1892, and of Sir A Nicholson's Mission to Morocco City in 1896.
1897 On his return from Gibraltar he joined the Staff of the Director General at the War Office, being appointed Deputy Assistant Director General in charge of AMD 2, a department dealing with medical statistics, hospital accommodation, prevention of disease, and the preparation of the Blue Book. While at the War Office he was selected to attend the 6th Congress of the Red Cross Societies in Vienna. Honorary Secretary Central British Red Cross Committee from its foundations until 1902.
11 Jan 1899–30 Apr 1902 Deputy Assistant Director General (War Office AMD2). At the termination of his War Office appointment in 1902, he went on a mission to South Africa, and the results of his investigations were given in his Detailed Reports on Sanitary Conditions relating to proposed Cantonments and Encampments for the Troops in South Africa.
1901 Became a Knight of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
1902–1903 Member of the Advisory Board for Medical Services.
1902 Attended the 7th Congress of the Red Cross Societies at St Petersburg.
1902 Appointed Honorary Physician to the King.
3 Feb 1903 Lieutenant Colonel.
24 Mar 1904–21 Dec 1905 Appointed SMO North China Command. While there, he was attached to the Japanese Forces in Manchuria for two years during the Russo-Japanese War. His observations were recorded in concise, educative reports, which were published later in the Medical and Sanitary Reports from Officers attached to the Japanese Forces in the Field. For his services to Japan he was awarded the Japanese War Medal, the Order of the Sacred Treasure (3rd Class), and the Meritorious Service Medal of the Japanese Red Cross Society.
1906 One of the British Plenipotentiaries at the Conference for the revision of the Geneva Convention.
29 Oct 1906–28 Dec 1909 Deputy Assistant Director General attached to the Department of the Director General Military Operations War Office. Lord Esher's Committee (24 Feb 1904) had recommended the attachment of an RAMC office to the Directorate of Military Operations which dealt with military intelligence, so as to learn form the medical organisation of foreign armies. Lt Col Macpherson was the first officer to be appointed to the post.
1907 Death of his spouse, E A Clurras, daughter of J Clurras Esq, of New Orleans.
6 Mar 1910 Colonel L/RAMC.
12 Mar 1910 Arrived from England as PMO Malta.
18 June 1910 At St Stephen's Church, Bath, by the Rev Lambert Coghlan, Vicar Marchwood, assisted by the Archdeacon of Bath, Colonel W G Macpherson CMG, third son of the late Rev W Macpherson, married Geraldine E, youngest daughter of the Late General Sir John Doran KCB, and of Lady Doran, Ely House, Wexford.
11 Aug 1910 Returned to Malta.
Sep 1910 PMO Malta Command.
1 Nov 1910 Left for India, as ADMS 4th Quetta Division. His move from Malta was largely influenced by the desire to be near his son, who was serving in a Gurkha regiment.
1911–1914 Lecturer on military medical subjects at the Staff College India.
In 1914, Sir Arthur Sloggett, DMS India, was appointed Director General Army Medical Services, and Macpherson became his deputy at the War Office. On the outbreak of war, much of the administrative work fell on Macpherson's shoulders. During the short illness of Sir Arthur Sloggett, Macpherson carried on the duties of Director General as well as those of Deputy Director General.
28 July 1914 Start of the Great War.
4 Aug 1914 Britain declares war on Germany.
6 Mar 1914–19 Oct 1914 Accompanied Sir Arthur Sloggett to France in 1914, as Deputy Director Army Medical Services (DMS).
14 July 1914 Surgeon General. When Sir Alfred Keogh relieved Sir Arthur Sloggett as Director General, Macpherson at first took over the duties of adviser of the Indian Corps with his headquarters at Abbeville, but shortly afterwards he became Director Medical Services of the First Army in France until October 1915. While adviser to the Indian Corps, his only son was killed in action. When DMS of the 1st Army he was responsible for the medical arrangements for the casualties from the fighting at Neuve Chapelle, the attack on Festubert, and the battle of Loos. At the battle of Loos, he arranged for an advanced operating centre in support of the casualty clearing station.
Macpherson played a leading part in developing surgery at the front. He placed the Casualty Clearing Stations as near the front as possible, and reinforced them with surgical teams and improved their equipment. He increased the hospital accommodation in France so as to prevent the wholesale evacuation of slightly wounded and sick casualties to the United Kingdom. Macpherson was very successful in stemming the drain of men incapacitated with trench foot, from the theatre of operations.
31 Oct 1915–Mar 1916 DMS of the Force in Salonica, where he completely reorganised the medical transport, as ordinary motor ambulances, wagons and cars were of little use for first line work in that country. He early realised the danger of malaria in the force, and put forward a most comprehensive scheme for its prevention.
Mar 1916–June 1918 Returned to France as DDGMS at GHQ 1st Echelon.
1918 Obliged to retire in accordance with the Royal Warrant which retired officers at 60 years of age.
10 July 1919 Awarded the honorary degree of LLD by the University of Edinburgh.
29 Sep 1922 Awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the President of the USA for distinguished services rendered during the War of 1914–19 (London Gazette 29 Sept 1922).
After his retirement from the Army Macpherson's edited his Medical History of the Great War. Eleven volumes were prepared in the short space of three and a half years, which remained the official record of the medical services during the war.
- Volume I: General History.
- Volume I: Pathology.
- Volume I: Diseases of the War.
- Volume I: Surgery of the War.
30 May 1925 Colonel Commandant RAMC.
15 Oct 1927 Died at London. The funeral service was held in the Holy Trinity Church Brompton on 19 October. A memorial service was also held in the chapel of the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital, Millbank,
on 25 October. Col Sir William Macpherson
was a skilled administrator. Before the war he was regarded as a great exponent of medical tactics. He was a good linguist, and translated The Strategical and Tactical Employment of the Medical Service as carried out in an Army Corps by Maximilian Ritter Von Hoen, of the Austro-Hungarian Army, a work which, for many years, was closely studied by officers holding administrative appointments. He was known as Tiger Mac in the Service, a tribute to his energy and efficiency.
- Entry No: 6937. Johnston W. 1917. Roll of Commissioned Officers in the Medical Service of the British Army. Vol I (20 June 1727 to 23 June 1898), Aberdeen, University Press.
- Succession Books Vol XVII, Returns of statement of service of RAMC Officers.
- Obituary Canadian Medical Association Journal, 1930 February; 22(2): 255.
- Obituary Br Med J (1927), 2; 3485: 759 (Published 22 October 1927).
- Obituary J R Army Med Corps 1927, XLIX: 6; 401-405 (Dec 1927).