August 28, 1918: Private Daniel Vincent McDonald, MM

MacDonald Donald Vincent 716128

Date of Birth: October 7, 1897 at Maryvale, Antigonish County

Parents: John A. “Lewis” and Margaret (McDonald) McDonald

Father’s Occupation: Farmer

Siblings: Sisters Mary (Mrs. Bruce McInnis) & Catherine; foster sister Janet; brothers John A., Angus, Joseph, Alexander, Ronald & Dougald

Marital Status: Single

Occupation: Iron constructor

Enlistment: March 1, 1916 at Antigonish, NS

Units: 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles); 26th Battalion (New Brunswick)

Service #: 716128

Rank: Private

Previous Military Service: Militia camp, 18th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery (Antigonish)

Next of Kin: John A. McDonald, New Glasgow, NS (father)

Date of Death: August 28, 1918 near Chérisy, France

Final Resting Place: Sun Quarry British Cemetery, Chérisy, Pas De Calais, France

Daniel (Donald) Vincent McDonald was the seventh and youngest son in a family of nine children born to John “Lewis” and Margaret (McDonald) McDonald, Maryvale, Antigonish County. At the time of Daniel’s enlistment with the 106th Battalion on March 1, 1916, the McDonald family was residing in New Glasgow.

Daniel’s great-grandfather, Malcolm, and his family emigrated from the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, in 1804, hence the distinction “Lewis.” According to family lore, a daughter died shortly before the ship reached shore and was buried at Pictou. The reason Malcolm’s second wife, the daughter of a minister, did not accompany the family to Canada remains unknown, but tradition has it that Malcolm and his two young sons, John and Angus, settled at Pictou for a short time before relocating to Arisaig. The following year, according to son Angus’ obituary, the family was “received into the Catholic Church by the Rev. A. McDonald, first Missionary of Arisaig.” When Malcolm passed away, he was reportedly buried along the shore at Arisaig.

In time, John, the elder of Malcolm’s sons, moved on to Bras d’Or, Cape Breton, but Angus—Private Daniel McDonald’s grandfather—made his way to Malignant Brook (Maryvale), where he obtained a land grant and married Catherine, daughter of Roderick “Ruaridh Cleirach” McDougall and Ann Chisholm of that community. Angus and Catherine were blessed with a large family that included Roderick, Malcolm, Hugh, John A., Margaret, Annie (Nancy) and Mary. On November 23, 1860, Angus died at the age of 64 years. His grave marker at Maryvale reads: “In memory of Angus McDonald, A Native of Lewis, Scotland.”

The 1871 Census for Malignant Brook reveals Roderick as head of the “Lewis” McDonald household. Living with him were his wife, a young son, and three adult siblings—Hugh, John A. and Nancy. Malcolm lived with his wife and young family in a separate dwelling on the property. The family home, built around the time of Angus’ death, remains one of the oldest dwellings in the community and was until recently the home of the late Teresa “Angus Hughie” MacDonald (no relation to the “Lewis” McDonald family).

In 1876, John A.—Private Daniel McDonald’s father—married Margaret, daughter of Donald (“tailor”) and Jennie McDonald, Knoydart. The young couple settled at Maryvale and raised a family of seven sons and two daughters on their 100-acre farm across the road from St. Mary’s Church. Looking for opportunities, the family relocated to industrial Pictou County in 1913 and settled at Liberty Avenue, New Glasgow. Over time, several of Daniel’s older brothers left home. Angus ventured to Cape Breton and entered employment with the Dominion Coal Company. Joseph went west and found work at Stewart, BC. Ronald left home at an early age, joined his brother at Stewart, BC, for a period of time, and then relocated to Vancouver.

Dougald, however, stayed home and found local employment as a machine operator. As their sons were not interested in farming, John and Margaret sold the Maryvale farm to the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Antigonish in June 1920. Their eldest daughter, Mary, married Bruce McInnis of Ohio, Antigonish County, and eventually relocated to New Glasgow. A foster child, Janet (“Janie”), was raised by the family from an early age.

When Daniel McDonald enlisted with the 106th Battalion at Antigonish on March 1, 1916, he was just 18 years old and working as an “iron constructor,” or iron worker, in Pictou County. His attestation papers reveal that he had some previous military experience with a local Antigonish militia unit prior to enlistment. One month later, he completed his medical examination at Pictou, NS, and was deemed fit for military service. On July 15, 1916, Daniel sailed from Halifax with the 106th aboard SS Empress of Britain and landed in England 10 days later.

The 106th Battalion resumed training at Lower Dibgate, Shorncliffe, but was soon disbanded to provide reinforcements for existing units. As a result, on October 4, 1916, Daniel was transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick) and joined his new unit in France shortly afterward. Throughout the winter of 1916-17, Daniel served with the 26th in sectors near Arras, France. The unit participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge, and saw action at Passchendaele, Belgium, where its soldiers took part in the battle’s final stage on November 6, 1917.

The 26th spent the winter of 1917-18 in sectors near Lens, France, and remained in the same location throughout the spring of 1918. Following several weeks’ rest and training in July 1918, the Canadian Corps’ soldiers were called back into action at Amiens, France, as Allied forces launched a major counter-offensive against German forces. While the 26th did not see combat at Amiens, the unit was in the line at month’s end as Canadian soldiers participated in an attack on the Hindenburg defensive system, east of Arras, France.

The 26th took part in the second day of combat, moving forward south of the village of Chérisy at 10:00 a.m. August 27. Daniel’s “C” Company followed in support as “A” and “B” Companies led the advance. While artillery fire was heavy, the soldiers encountered little resistance from German soldiers manning the opposing trenches. Upon crossing the Sensée River, however, fierce machine gun fire and shelling brought the day’s advance to an end and the soldiers established a defensive line during late afternoon.

At 12:30 p.m. August 28, the 26th resumed the attack, moving forward in the same formation as on the previous day. Almost immediately, however, personnel encountered “the most terrific machine gun fire” and intense shelling. For one hour, the unit moved forward slowly before the advance once again ground to a halt, at which point the soldiers consolidated their positions. Daniel was among the personnel specifically commended in a “C” Company report for their “good work” during the afternoon’s combat.

The fierce fighting took a toll on the 26th’s ranks. The unit’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. A. E. G. McKenzie, was killed during the day’s advance, while “C” Company reported at least 30 casualties. Daniel was among the soldiers wounded during the hostile fire, “and was last seen by his comrades making his way to the rear of [the 26th’s] lines.” He never reached the Regimental Aid Post, his circumstances of casualty card reporting: “No further details are available of the particular circumstances in which he met his death.”

Private Daniel Vincent McDonald’s remains were located and he was laid to rest in Sun Quarry Cemetery, Chérisy, France. One month shy of his 21st birthday at the time of his passing, Daniel’s performance on the Arras battlefield posthumously earned him the Military Medal “for bravery in the field.” The family gravestone at Maryvale includes Daniel’s name, service number, battalion, and a stanza from John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields: “We are the dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields.” On January 8, 1920, The Casket reported that John A. and Margaret had received the Military Medal “won by their gallant son, Daniel Vincent, who gave up his life on August 28, 1918, in trying to rescue a comrade wounded in the great battle then raging.”

Margaret McDonald passed away on February 4, 1928 at age 75. Nine weeks later, on April 13, John A. passed away at the ripe old age of 91. The couple’s remains were laid to rest in the family plot at Maryvale, in close proximity to the little church. John A. and Margaret were predeceased by four of their children—John A., Catherine, Alexander, and of course “Dannie,” who, as his mother’s obituary notes, “made the supreme sacrifice on the fields of Flanders.”

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