Clare Balding’s “Who do you think you are?” and Captain Malcolm Bullock

If you have watched the edition of “Who do you think you are?” that featured TV presenter Clare Balding, you will have met her great grandfather, the politician Sir Harold Malcolm Bullock. He married Lord Derby’s beloved daughter Lady Victoria Stanley (by then Lady Victoria Primrose) in 1919 and lost her in tragic circumstances in 1927. You may also have caught that he had previously been Captain Malcolm Bullock. I’m pleased to say that I researched him for the series: here’s his military story.

Personal background

Harold Malcolm Bullock was born in Bexley, Kent, on 10 July 1889, the first son of Frank and Isabel Charlotte Bullock. His father was a successful iron merchant.

Malcolm attended Charterhouse School before going on to Trinity College of Cambridge University in 1909. he was studying law and was eventually called to the Bar by the Inner Temple while he was still in military service in 1918.

Sir (Harold) Malcolm Bullock by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, 23 March 1948
Commissioned, 1948
With kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery and reproduced under Creative Commons licence

Commission and early service

Malcolm signed an application for a commission as a temporary officer of the British Army on 23 September 1914.

At this time, there was no rigorous officer selection and training regime such as that which developed during the Great War. If the man could demonstrate a suitable level of educational attainment, could provide a reference as to his moral character, could (ideally) ride a horse and was generally of the right “stamp” he was not likely to be rejected. The War Office had given recent instructions for a vast expansion of the army and it needed all the officers it could find.

Malcolm’s application was accepted and he was commissioned as a Temporary Second Lieutenant of the General List of Officers and was posted to the 12th (Service) Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

On 27 October 1914 Malcolm was promoted to Lieutenant.

This is a much faster promotion than would normally be expected. It is likely to stem from the fast growth of the unit and the movement of an existing Lieutenant (either discharged or to another unit, or promoted) but may also reflect qualities and abilities that Malcolm had already demonstrated in the rather chaotic first few weeks of the battalion’s existence.

None of the military documents reveal exactly why, but on 20 January 1915 Malcolm transferred to the Scots Guards.

The Scots Guards had two battalions, both of which were by this time on active service in France. It appears that Malcolm spent the next few weeks with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Chelsea Barracks.

According to his campaign medal documents, Harold crossed the English Channel and landed in France on 25 February 1915.

In France

Malcolm was posted to join his regiment’s 2nd Battalion. It is unfortunate that the war diary of this unit is not one of the best of its type, but his arrival on 4 March 1915 is mentioned.

His time with the battalion was short but highly eventful. Under command of the 20th Infantry Brigade of the 7th Division, the battalion took part in a major operation that commenced on 10 March 1915. This has the official name of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. When Malcolm arrived, the battalion was out of the front line and billeted in the village of Vieux Berquin. It was carrying out intensive attack practice in preparation for this operation. On 7 March it moved to Estaires.

The battalion was held in reserve when the British attack began on 10 March, but during that day it was moved closer to the battle front and went into dug outs at Pont du Hem. The attack had made good progress but by day’s end was halted, with units depleted by casualties and with a good deal of confusion about their actual locations in a flat, featureless area. At 7.10am next morning, the 2nd Scots Guards was ordered to continue the attack. It made some progress and dug in by nightfall.

Malcolm was severely wounded in the continuation of operations on 12 March 1915. The war diary says that he was hit during the night, before the attack restarted at 4.15am.

Malcolm’s injuries are such that it appears that he was hit by the explosion of an artillery shell. He suffered cranial and spine injuries which lead at first to head pains and vomiting, but left a lasting effect of a weak right side, trouble walking and continued headaches, partial sight and memory loss. He did not make a complete recovery during his military service and was the recipient of a disablement pension for years afterwards.

The route of his evacuation from the battlefield and the hospitals that admitted him is not well defined by the existing documentation, except to say that he passed through a hospital at Rouen before sailing from Le Havre to Southampton on 22 March 1915. On the same date, he was named in a list of wounded officers that appeared in the “Times”. This made matters public: his parents would have already been informed by telegram.

Back at home and out to Malta

On re-crossing the English Channel, Malcolm would have been struck off the strength of the battalion. Officers were technically placed on leave while they were physically in hospital.

Once again, Malcolm’s record gives few clues with regard to his movements. There is a reference on 27 May 1915 of him being at the “Palace Hospital”: I suspect that this refers to the Special Neurological Hospital for Officers at 10 Palace Green, Kensington. It had opened in January 1915 for officers suffering from functional neurosis and traumatic neurasthenia.

A Medical Board (the formal assessment of a man’s physical condition and forecast of how long it might be before he could return to service) held on 14 May 1915 found Malcolm unfit and extended his leave to 17 June. His correspondence address around this time was The Found House, Wimbledon Common.

On 5 June 1915 Malcolm wrote , saying that he intended a short trip to Scotland. Whether this took place is not clear, for another Medical Board held on 15 June 1915 rated him as fit for General Service. This seems rather odd, given all the other comments on his condition.

Malcolm was appointed as Aide-de-Camp to Lord Methuen, the Governor of Malta, on 30 June 1915. He appears to have begun this employment on 7 July 1915.

India and home again

A Medical Board held in Malta on 22 December 1915 recommended three months leave, and it is evident that Malcolm proceeded to India for this purpose.

On 23 January1916 he suffered an accident in India when thrown from a dog cart: sadly, no location is given in his papers. By bad luck, he hurt his head and the accident appears to have contributed to the lengthy nature of his recovery from his wound of March 1915.

By about 25 March 1916 he was back in Malta. A Medical Board held there on 18 April 1916 recommended a return home and a year’s leave. Malcolm sailed on 24 April 1916 and went to England via France, Boulogne and Folkestone, arriving on 2 May 1916.

His private addresses over the next months were the Guards Club and for a while the Beacon Hotel, Hindhead. Malcolm wrote of a planned trip to Scotland before returning to London.

Medical Boards held at various dates (no locations are given) through the rest of the year made continually over- optimistic forecasts of his return to service. When his condition only slowly improved, his leave was continually extended.

On 8 February 1917 Malcolm rejoined his regiment and appears to have gone back to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, but at some point began employment at the Foreign Office. He reported that no sedentary work was available with his regiment (and that is all he was medically rated as capable of doing at this time). He was not paid by the Foreign Office and none of the records tells us exactly what he did. In April 1917 he wrote on notepaper from the Southern Reserve Centre at Salisbury.

Malcolm was promoted to Captain on 6 April 1917.

More Medical Boards took place throughout the year, and it is clear that he was making only slow progress. By 3 February 1918 Malcolm said in a letter that he believed he was about to be put on the retired list. This proved not to be the case.

During April 1918 Malcolm left the Foreign Office for duty as Assistant Military Secretary at the British Embassy in Paris. This would bring him into close contact with his future father in law, Lord Derby.


Malcolm spent the rest of his military service in his role in Paris.

On 11 March 1919 the “London Gazette” announced that he was awarded the French decoration, the Croix de Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur. There is little doubt that this was for his work at the Embassy.

Malcolm was also made a Member of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire, presumably also for this work, in the King’s Birthday Honours of 3 June 1919.

On 3 July 1919 Harold was appointed as a Class FF staff officer: this was only a formalisation of his role.

End of service

On 27 December 1919 Malcolm reported to the Dispersal Unit at Purfleet in Surrey, where he was demobilised. He returned to civilian life and was transferred to the Supplementary List of officers.

By 28 February 1920 an examining doctor was still reporting that Malcolm had headaches and trouble walking.

On 1 April 1920 Malcolm relinquished his commission but was allowed the continued honorary use of the rank of Captain.

In the first half of 1922 he applied for transfer to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers and on 22 July 1939 was recommended for Honorary Colonel of the 87th (1st West Lancashire) Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery, Territorial Army.