August 7, 2022. We very much appreciate hearing from families whose relatives served in WW1 or WW2. Recently, Bloyce McLellan of North Tryon contacted us about his uncle, WW1 veteran John David MACDONALD.
“…My Mother was Elizabeth (Eliza) Matilda MacDonald from Pisquid, Prince Edward Island. She married my father and moved to Arlington, Grand River, Prince Edward Island. I was the youngest of 11 children and brought up on a mixed farming operation there.
My mother would tell us stories about her brother John David MacDonald. As a young fellow he assisted with the farming and had some schooling. He did a lot of hunting around the farm and became a very good marksman with a rifle. When the Germans invaded Europe, he signed up with the Canadian Military along with some of his friends….”
Born January 13, 1896, John David MacDonald was the son of Allan Joseph and Annie MacDonald. (The surname was sometimes spelled McDonald.) When he enlisted with the 105th Overseas Battalion in Charlottetown on June 10, 1916, he stated that he had been a member of the 82nd Regiment Militia, also known as the Abegweit Light Infantry. This Militia had been on active service since August 6, 1914 for local protection. (See https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/military-history/history-heritage/official-military-history-lineages/lineages/armour-regiments/prince-edward-island-regiment.html)
After basic training, John David left Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard the Empress of Britain on July 15, 1916, as part of the 105th Overseas Battalion, and arrived in Liverpool, England on July 25, 1916. He was sent to various camps in England for training, before leaving for France on August 27, 1917.
On September 8, 1917 he was transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick Regiment) while they were near Vimy, France. He was with the Regiment as it moved north to the Ypres Salient for the Battle of Passchendaele. After Passchendaele, the Regiment returned to the area near Vimy, France before moving towards Lens.
Bloyce recalls his mother explaining that “…because he was a highly skilled marksman, John David was chosen to be a sniper. A sniper’s prime task was to go out into No Man’s Land and take out the German Machine Gun nests particularly before the Allies launched their attacks or assaults. If he was not successful there would be a lot of Canadian lives lost as the German Machine Guns would mow down many of the Allied soldiers on their advance…”
…. The role of a sniper during WW1….
During WWI, snipers and sharpshooters in World War I not only destroyed enemy positions such as machine gun nests, but also were used for psychological warfare in quieter periods. A 9 minute YouTube video, Sharpshooters and Snipers in World War I, gives an introduction to these brave men:
Nothing in John David’s service file specifically indicated he was a sniper, but this was not unusual. Soldiers who were experienced with guns were in high demand.
…John David was wounded twice….
On February 26, 1918 the Regiment was stationed in Lievin in northern France. The war diary of the 26th Battalion for that day noted that a Working Party “…from ‘C’ Company working in vicinity of Junction AMULET trench and CROCODILE trench suffered some casualties….” John David was in this Working Party and was admitted to No. 6 Field Ambulance Depot for a gunshot wound to his left cheek.
On March 1, 1918 he was transferred to No. 18 General Hospital in Camiers, France for further treatment and discharged on March 14. He was based at a Casualty Clearing Station in Etaples before being sent back to the front on April 20, 1918. The Regiment was holding the front east of Neuville Vitasse before moving to Amiens in August 1918.
The war diary for the 26th Battalion for September 21, 1918 noted that there was “…shelling during early morning in vicinity of Battalion Headquarters….. Casualties six other ranks wounded...” John David was among those wounded as he had received bomb wounds on both legs, his face, and hands, and was sent to No. 4 Casualty Clearing Station in Poperinge, Belgium.
On September 30, 1918 he was admitted to No. 16 General Hospital in Orpington, Kent, England for treatment on his legs. He wasn’t discharged until November 26, 1918.
In January 1919 he returned to Canada and was officially discharged in Charlottetown on April 15, 1919. Bloyce’s mother told him that her brother returned home to Pisquid after the war “…walking up the lane at home with a limp due to his injuries….”
…A successful life in spite of post-traumatic stress….
Bloyce continued with his mother’s recollections. “…John David was never the same after the war. He had been a happy go lucky boy before the war but the war really tore him apart. Not just being wounded in action twice, but mentally he had considerable pain and significant stress. He relived the horrors of war with nightmares….”
John David became a farmer and married Catherine Bernadette McKinnon on February 23, 1927. They brought up a family of 7 girls and 4 boys.
John David died in 1961, and is buried in St. Andrews Roman Catholic Cemetery in Mount Stewart, Prince Edward Island.
… ‘This man was a hero without a doubt’ – Bloyce McLellan….
Bloyce reflected that “…in reviewing his military file I was quite shocked that John David never received any notable medal – a man that risked his life, health, and his future for his country. This man was a hero without a doubt, wounded in action and will remain in the history of our country an unsung hero. When I heard my mother’s stories and read John David’s military file that Pieter and Daria Valkenburg were able to research for me, there was no question in my mind. Although he was a little farm boy from Pisquid, he stood tall and risked his life time and again for his countrymen and his country. No country could ask more from any man. He gave it all.…”
Thank you to Bloyce McLellan for sharing his mother’s recollections about her brother and obtaining a photo. If you have a story to share, please let Pieter know. You can email him at email@example.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
…Previous stories of Islanders who were aboard the ‘Empress of Britain’ with John David MacDonald….
Several Islanders, whose stories have previously been told, also sailed to England on the ‘Empress of Britain’ in July 1916. Among them were:
- Patrick Raymond ARSENAULT, who died during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. (https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2017/07/28/learning-about-the-two-names-on-the-vimy-memorial/)
- Theodore ‘Ted’ Francis ARSENAULT, who died during the Battle of Amiens in August 1918. (https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/03/06/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww1-soldier-from-abrams-village-buried-in-manitoba-cemetery-in-france/)
- Maynard FOY, who survived the war. (https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/04/24/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww1-soldier-who-returned-to-tryon/)
- George Stanley HENNESSEY, who survived the war. (https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/02/14/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww1-soldier-who-served-in-the-1st-canadian-engineers-battalion/)
- William ‘James’ SEAMAN, who survived the war. https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/03/17/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww1-soldier-who-attended-queen-victorias-diamond-jubilee/
…Want to follow our research?….
Daria’s book ‘No Soldier Buried Overseas Should Ever Be Forgotten‘ is available in print and e-book formats. For more information see https://nosoldierforgotten.com/
Upcoming Author Talk: Thursday, August 11, 2022 – Victoria-By-The-Sea, Prince Edward Island, part of the ‘Our Island Talks’ series, and hosted by Victoria Playhouse and Victoria Historical Association. Time: 2:00 pm.
You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.
© Daria Valkenburg