October 8, 1916: Private Daniel William McDonald

 MacDonald Daniel W

Date of Birth: March 12, 1890 at Cape George, Antigonish County, NS

Parents: Duncan J. and Christena (McDonald) McDonald

Father’s Occupation: Farmer

Marital Status: Single

Occupation: Brakeman

Enlistment: October 20, 1915 at Vancouver, BC

Unit: 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada); 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish)

Service #: 130146

Rank: Private

Previous Military Service: None

Next of Kin: Duncan J. McDonald, Cape George, Antigonish County, NS (father)

Date of Death: October 8, 1916 near Le Sars, France

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

Daniel William McDonald was the son of Duncan J. and Christena (McDonald) McDonald, Cape George Point, Antigonish County. Duncan was one of “the Taylors,” a nickname that seems to have gone back several generations. Duncan lived his entire life at the point of the Cape, farming for a living. He and his wife raised a large family, “Danny” being the seventh of their ten children. Duncan passed away in 1933, while Christina died in 1943.

Daniel was twenty-five years of age when he enlisted with the 72nd Battalion at Vancouver, BC on October 20, 1915.  He had been working as a brakeman with the Canadian Pacific Railway.  (A certificate from the C.P.R. Company, commemorating Daniel’s relinquishment of his position with the company for service with King and Country, was found in the family bible at the old homestead some years ago.) The 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) recruited throughout British Columbia and mobilized at Vancouver. The unit embarked for Britain on April 23, 1916.

A letter to his mother, written on May 21, 1916, reveals that Danny was safely stationed at Bramshott, England, and getting along fine after the trip across on the Empress of Britain, a voyage that had been a tad less than ideal. “It was not stormy but we had not much room,” he wrote. “There was [sic] over four thousand troops on board.” Aside from the cramped quarters, “we had a very nice trip coming across.”

Daniel spoke glowingly of his time in England. “They treat the Canadians fine. They do all they can for them. I have been to London on leave and the place I stayed, the people drove us all around the city everyday and had tea parties for us every night. . . . they also gave us free tickets for theatres.”

The British and Canadians were clearly quite confident that they would win the war before long. “They say the Germans are an easy mark for the Canadians,” wrote Daniel. “They will run away from them every time so that proves that they are all in. They are loosing [sic] ground everyday.” As time would reveal, the enemy wasn’t so easily defeated. Back in England, Daniel confidently proclaimed, “The Canadians are all good fighters.” He was clearly proud to be serving his country. His signature on the letter to his mother read: “Pte. D. W. McDonald 130146 Coy A 2 Platoon 72nd Seaforth Highlanders CEF.”  Before signing off, he added, “Give my best regards to all and don’t worry about me for it will be no good.”

Transferred to the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) and sent to the front shortly after arriving in England, Daniel’s luck ran out all too soon. Relocating with his new unit to the Somme region of France in late August 1916, Daniel participated in several assaults on German positions near Courcelette in late September and early October. He was initially reported wounded and missing after heavy fighting during an attack near Le Sars, France on October 8-9, 1916. His battalion attacked the German line, the enemy responding with a counterattack that drove the 16th back to its original “kicking-off trench.”

Daniel’s body was eventually recovered from the battlefield, an account of his death appearing in The Casket on August 30, 1917. Initially buried a mile west of Le Sars, Daniel’s remains were later exhumed and reinterred in Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, Somme, France.

Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, France.

Daniel’s sister, Cassie, married Albert Falkenham of Lunenburg, another First World War soldier. A machinist by trade, Albert was thirty years old and married, with a five-year-old son, Charles Kimball, when he enlisted on August 1, 1916. At the time, Albert had served with the 75th Regiment for three years. While Albert was stationed at Wellington Barracks, Halifax, his wife and young son resided at 496 Gottingen Street. Interestingly, Daniel made mention of his sisters, Cassie and Mary, in the letter to his mother:  “Í seen [sic] Mary and Cassie in Halifax. I got ashore and seen them at first, they came in a boat and I seen them and I hardly knew who it was at first.”

Albert later transferred from the Composite Garrison Battalion to the Royal Canadian Regiment, reverting from the rank of Corporal to Private to secure an overseas transfer. Wounded in the arm at Passchendaele, Belgium, in October 1917 and in the leg at Parvillers, France, in August 1918, Albert survived the war, came home to his family, and later became lighthouse keeper at Ballantyne’s Cove, a position he held from 1919 to 1952.

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