September 19, 1916: Private Hugh D. MacDonald

MacDonald Hugh D

Date of Birth: October 26, 1885 at Lennox (Maryvale), Antigonish Co., NS

Parents:  Alexander and Margaret (MacEachern) MacDonald

Father’s Occupation: Farmer

Marital Status:  Single

Occupation: Machinist and Mill Hand

Enlistment:  March 3, 1916 at Nelson, BC

Units:  103rd Battalion; 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion

Service #:  490256

Rank:  Private

Previous Military Service:  107th Regiment, Nelson, BC

Next of Kin:  Margaret MacDonald, Maryvale, Antigonish Co., NS (mother)

Date of Death:  September 19, 1916 near Pozières, France

Final Resting Place:  Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, Somme, France


Hugh Daniel MacDonald was the seventh of nine children (five sons and four daughters) born to Alexander and Margaret (MacEachern) MacDonald of Lennox (Maryvale), Antigonish County. The family lived on what has long been known as the old Theriault farm at Maryvale. A brother, Dan Joe, was a merchant in town; another brother, John D., was a guard at Dorchester Penitentiary. Hugh Daniel, however, went west and found work as a machinist and mill hand at Nelson, BC.

After the outbreak of war in Europe, Hugh D. enlisted with the 107th Regiment, a militia unit, at Nelson, BC.  Hugh’s attestation papers indicate that he signed up for overseas service with the 103rd Battalion on March 3, 1916.  The battalion embarked for Britain on July 23, 1916. Shortly after arriving in England, the 103rd was dissolved to provide reinforcements for other units. Hugh D. was transferred to the 1st Canadian Pioneers and crossed the English Channel to join his new unit in the field.

In late summer 1916, 1st Pioneer followed the Canadian Corps from Belgium to the Somme region of France, arriving at Albert on September 4, 1915. Its personnel immediately commenced work deepening trenches, burying cable, repairing rail track and constructing tramlines behind the front trenches. By mid-month, the unit’s war diary was reporting daily casualties from artillery shells striking its work areas. Three “other ranks” (OR) were killed and 11 wounded on September 14, while six OR were killed, one Officer and 17 OR wounded the following day.

On September 19, a party of six Officers and 181 OR was deepening a trench near Pozières Ridge when artillery fire struck the area. Private Hugh D. MacDonald was the day’s sole casualty, killed by an exploding shell. Almost thirty years of age at the time of his death, Hugh was laid to rest in Adanac Military Cemetery, Somme, France.

Shortly after Hugh D.’s passing, an impressive memorial service was held at Maryvale for this “heroic” young man who “gave up his life for his King and Country on the blood-stained soil of France.”  The Casket reported that Hugh D. had made “the supreme sacrifice for the Empire, and that he had performed the greatest of all acts of charity – the laying down of his life for his fellow man.”  The newspaper also noted that all who attended the service were beginning to realize more keenly than ever the sacrifice this terrible war was going to demand before peace was again assured. In 1921, The Casket informed that Hugh’s mother, Mrs. A. D. MacDonald, had received a Memorial Cross, Plaque and Scroll, in memory of her deceased son.

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