James Stuart McLean was born in Walgett in 1893, one of five children born to James Fletcher McLean and Ellen Campbell McLean nee Stuart. In 1894 the family moved to the Parkes district, where they remained for several years.
By 1914 the family had relocated to Orange, where the family worked Cranley at Bloomfield. In October 1914 James junior volunteered his services to the AIF and, in December, embarked for overseas service.
Private McLean was a regular correspondent to his family. In a letter written from 7th Australian Light Horse Camp at Ma’adi he describes the difficulty of completing training drills in the sand: “The ground here is worse than Maroubra; everywhere there is sand.”
In April 1916 James was transferred to the 10th Field Artillery Brigade at Tel-el-Kebir; in June he joined the British Expeditionary Force in France as a Bombardier. In January 1917 he was promoted to Temporary Colonel, and, in June, to Colonel.
Colonel McLean suffered an attack of appendicitis in January 1918 which saw him transferred to the Tidworth Military Hospital in England. In March he wrote home from Hurdcott Convalescent Camp praising the quality of the cuisine and the amusements. He also recalled that this is now the fourth Easter that he has seen in the Army.
In June 1918 Colonel McLean rejoined his unit in France, and in November he returned to Australia. James returned to Orange on the train with Alfred Joseph Allan. They were greeted at the Orange Railway Station by the Mayor, Ald Bouffler, as the Model Band played Home Sweet Home. They were then escorted through a guard of honour to the Town Hall for a civic reception. James was given a second welcome home reception at Bloomfield several weeks later.
In January 1919 James married Florence Emma Allen. The couple later moved to Sydney, where James was an employee of NSW Tramways. They lived at Penshurst until their deaths. James died in the Repatriation General Hospital at Concord in 1966, aged 72.
James is commemorated on Bloomfield Honour Roll and the St John’s Presbyterian Church Orange Honour Roll.
James’ brother Alfred Fletcher McLean also served in WWI.