September 27, 1916: Corporal Colin Francis McDougall

Canadian War Memorial, Courcelette, France

Date of Birth: August 10, 1886 at Antigonish, NS

Parents:  John Edward and Catherine (McDonald) McDougall, Pleasant Street, Antigonish, NS

Marital Status: Single

Occupation:  Clerk

Enlistment:  May 1, 1915 at Calgary, AB

Unit:  31st Battalion

Service #:  446473

Rank:  Corporal

Previous Military Service:  None

Next of Kin:  Catherine McDougall, Antigonish, NS (mother)

Date of Death:  September 27, 1916 near Courcelette, France

Memorial:  Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, Pas de Calais, France


Colin Francis McDougall was the son of John Edward and Catherine (McDonald) McDougall of Antigonish. Family details are scarce. For some time, Catherine and her two children, Colin and Josephine, lived with her mother, Christy McDonald, a widow on Pleasant Street. Not long after Christy’s death, the house was deeded to Colin and subsequently to his sister, Josephine, in 1914. While Catherine was listed as next of kin on Colin’s attestation papers, his obituary reveals that his mother predeceased him by several years.

As a young man, Colin worked with Chisholm and Sweet & Co. for several years. Around 1914, he left for western Canada. Colin enlisted with the 31st Canadian Infantry Battalion at Calgary, AB on May 1, 1915.  He was twenty-nine years old at the time. While his attestation papers indicate that he was a clerk by trade, the deed to the Pleasant Street house noted that he was an employee of Canadian Pacific Railway.

The 31st Battalion (Alberta) was authorized on November 7, 1914, and departed Canada with the 2nd Canadian Contingent on May 17, 1915. It arrived in France on September 18, 1915 as part of the 2nd Canadian Division’s 6th Brigade and deployed in Belgium’s Ypres Salient.

The 31st served in Belgium from September 1915 until August 1916, relocating to the Somme region of France in early September. Shortly after its arrival, the 31st participated in the Canadian Corps’ September 15, 1916 attack on the village of Courcelette, incurring an estimated 350 casualties.

Following a brief break from the line, the 31st returned to the trenches on September 25, an attack on the German line scheduled for the following day. At 12:35 p.m. September 26, its soldiers advanced toward the enemy’s trenches. Ninety minutes later, its war diary reported: “Wounded begin to arrive [at Regimental Aid Post] and constant stream keeps up all afternoon. Some very severe cases.” The attack was repulsed at 6:00 p.m. and heavy artillery shelling occurred throughout night.

The following day (September 27), the battalion resumed the attack, reaching its objective by 3:00 p.m.. Colin Francis McDougall was among the soldiers reported missing after the fighting, “for official purposes presumed to have died” during the day’s events. During his brief military career, Colin had advanced to the rank of Corporal.

Colin was survived by his sister Josephine, who had followed him to Calgary. There, she met and married a gentleman by the name of John George Holder, who soon afterward enlisted with the 113th Canadian Infantry Battalion at Lethbridge, AB on November 18, 1915. He was later transferred to the 31st Battalion—his brother-in-law’s unit—on June 25, 1917 and joined the 31st in the field on August 25.

On September 26, 1917, the 31st Battalion returned to the trenches in the Avion – Méricourt Sector, near Villers au Bois, France. The following day—the first anniversary of Colin Francis McDougall’s death—the battalion’s war diary reported: “Heavy shelling on our front about dusk,” resulting in one “other rank” killed and five wounded. John George Holder was the lone soldier who died in the artillery bombardment.  He was laid to rest in La Chaudière Military Cemetery, Vimy, France.

Josephine thus lost both her husband and her only brother in the Great War. Widowed and left to raise a young son born during the war years, she remained in western Canada, where she raised Allan Bryan Holder, who would go on to “do her proud.”  Josephine passed away at Calgary, AB in 1958.

After graduating from Mount Royal College, Calgary, Allan worked for the city of Calgary before serving overseas during the Second World War with the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1966, The Chilliwack Progress reported that Allan’s “four years of service saw him rise to the rank of flight-lieutenant, as an accounting officer. He was with the first RCAF wing to land on the continent in 1944 and served in France, Belgium and Holland.”  It is rather interesting that he followed in the footsteps of the father and uncle he never knew.

After the war, Allan and his family moved to Chilliwack, British Columbia, where he established Holder Stationery, an office supplies business. From 1966 to 1973, Allan served as mayor of the city, and was a candidate for the Progressive Conservative Party in the 1972 Canadian federal election. He passed away at Chilliwack, BC in March 1985.

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