Skip to content

Search our stories

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Normand MacLaurin MBE
Second World War Army Indian Kohima and Imphal
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Normand MacLaurin
View record on CWGC

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Normand MacLaurin (known within the Indian Army as Norman) was born in Edinburgh, son of Donald and Constance Margaret MacLaurin, husband of Dorothea Violet Douglas MacLaurin.

He was commissioned into the colonial Indian Army, joining 1st Duke of York's Own Cavalry (Skinner's Horse).

MacLaurin immersed himself into the life of a British subaltern in a horse-mounted Indian Cavalry regiment, playing polo, pigsticking and purchasing a high spirited ex-racehorse called Nicholas Bagshawe.

During a morning parade at Lucknow, his duties as Adjutant (a regimental appointment) compelled him to spur his horse towards the Commandant, Lieutenant-Colonel Gerald Gray, at a controlled canter to salute and report. Not fully trusting his charger, MacLaurin rode over sedately. He received a short reprimand and was told by Gray, a stickler for discipline, to repeat the procedure properly. He did so. Nicholas Bagshawe broke into a gallop, collided with Gray knocking both riders and their horses to the ground in front of the entire regiment.

MacLaurin's early service was distinguished by serving as a staff officer at Peshawar. He executed staff work to enable active operations against the Mohmands in 1935. Soon after, he planned the first air lift of troops in India, to Chitral. For this, he was awarded the MBE.

Aside of his military duties, MacLaurin was a noted caricaturist and a skilled Scottish dancer. He was also an avid bagpiper, taking his pipes with him to war, playing them in Iraq in 1942 (where he joined the 5th Indian Division) and later back to India. As AA&QMG to the 5th Indian Division,

MacLaurin was instrumental for planning the airlift of his formation from the Arakan to Imphal. This reinforcement had an important bearing on the conduct of the campaign.

On the morning of 7 April 1944, the Japanese were pressing Lion Box, a defensive position north of Imphal. The British initially counterattacked with elements of the 2/West Yorkshire Regiment and some armour, but by noon decided to withdraw.

The infantry marched back to Imphal, trucks were sent for important supplies. MacLaurin was sorting out a traffic jam stemming from these movements near Kanglatombi, when he was hit by a Japanese 75mm shell and killed. A piper from the Seaforth Highlanders played a lament at his funeral.

He is commemorated at CWGC Imphal War Cemetery, plot 9.B.7.