Obituary: Robert ‘Bob’ McCrum, 92

Robert ‘Bob’ McCrum, a taxi driver and former soldier who fought in the Second World War, has died, aged 92.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 7th November 2012, 12:00 pm

Known to many as a friendly taxi driver inclined to stop and pick up neighbours and friends at no cost, Mr McCrum endured great hardship and showed immense courage during the Second World War as a member of the Chindits, the British India “Special Force” that served in Burma and India in 1943 and 1944.

The Chindits were trained to operate behind enemy lines. This involved long marches over difficult terrain and fighting off diseases like malaria.

Although he lived most of his adult life in the Lothians, Mr McCrum was born in Hamilton in Lanarkshire, February 13, 1920. His father, Robert, was a miner and his mother, Isabella, supplemented the family income by making and selling boiled sweets from her home.

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On leaving school, Mr McCrum worked as a farm hand, and joined the Territorial Lanarkshire Yeomanry cavalry.

Then the Second World War broke out. Things changed quickly for Mr McCrum and his friends as they transformed into full-time professional soldiers. He trained at Lanark to be a gunner in the newly-formed 155th (Lanarkshire Yeomanry) Field regiment of the Royal Artillery.

He was sent to India in preparation for action in the North African Desert against Rommel’s Afrika Corps.

In August, 1941, he was sent to Quetta, near the Afghan border, and became part of the Chindits sent to carry out operations deep into Japanese-held Burma. The Chindits earned a fearsome reputation climbing over mountains, travelling across leech-infested jungles and making their way through deep, fast-flowing rivers.

His earlier life with the former Lanarkshire Yeomanry cavalry came in handy and he was highly skilled at controlling the contrary mules. These pack animals carried weapons, radio equipment and food.

Mr McCrum returned to Britain, where he instructed new recruits to the Royal Artillery.

It was on a training base in Wales that he met Agnes Kilday, a girl from West Calder who was then serving with the ATS. After a whirlwind romance, 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 years old.

Mr McCrum is survived by daughters Betty and Ella and all the family.