The Story of Corp. Strathcona McDonald, Killed in Action October 24th 1918
Corp. Strathcona McDonald (l) pestered his parents, Dr. Alexander and Ella McDonald, for 6 months before they finally gave him permission to enlist at age 17.
In October, 1916 he travelled to Petawawa and joined the artillery – 72nd Queen’s Battery of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His military records show that he signed-up for the duration of WWI plus 6 months. It was said, “there was not a prouder boy in uniform.”
Known to family and friends as “Teddy,” he was known for his smile and for being “brim full of mischief.” He delighted in playing jokes on those he loved most.
Strathcona went overseas in March, 1917. He was in England for two months when he volunteered for special trench mortar service in France. He had displayed this eagerness when convincing his parents to let him go. Altruistically, for him, it was a chance for every young man “with a true spirit” to show that he was prepared to suffer and even die if necessary, to defend their rights.
He embarked on this patriotic endeavour as a student, and he discovered that even the active military provide time for learning. He took brief training sessions in England, returning to the field each time.
In September, 1918 he was on leave for course work in England for two weeks. On September 18, 1918 he was promoted to Corporal. And he rejoined his unit in the field in France on October 4th.
On October 24th, 1918 Strathcona suffered a gun shot wound to the head and a fractured skull. He is buried at Queant Road Cemetery located between the towns of Buissy and Queant, in the Calais region of France. Armistice was just short weeks ahead.
As all soldiers are required to do on enlisting, Strathcona signed a will and named his mother Ella MacDonald as his beneficiary. In 1919, she received the balance of his bank account: $14.60 ($217 today).
Ella MacDonald received the Memorial Cross as a bereaved mother.
The MacDonald Family had two sons who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces during WW I. Sutherland, the elder son, was also a student when he joined the CEF in 1916 at the age of 20. He became a member of the 50th Queen’s Battery, 13th Brigade, and served in France until the war ended. When he returned, he resumed his college studies.
In the November 1st, 1918 issue of the Eastern Ontario Review (EOR), the reporter remarks that Teddy’s parents, his sister Elsie and his big brother Sutherland all mourned his loss.
Given the youthfulness of other Vankleek Hill sons who died in WWI, it is likely most knew each other.
Here are images of a few of them taken from the November 1st, 1918 issue of the Eastern Ontario Review. They appeared in an ad for Victory Bonds. Also mentioned in the ad is Sgt William Brown who was killed in an air raid in England.
Brief Bios for photos in Eastern Ontario Review ad to sell Victory Bonds, Nov. 1, 1918
Private Douglas Cameron McLaurin who died April 5, 1916 of shrapnel wounds to the head at age 24. His brother, Howard James, is buried with him in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.
Lieutenant Howard James McLaurin who died in battle June 14, 1916 at age 29 just weeks after his brother Douglas Cameron was KIA. Their third brother, William Frederick, was gassed in 1918 and spent time in hospital in Rouen before being sent home.
Pte. James Bertrand, Vankleek Hill; farmer; b. Jan. 20, 1897; single; son of Leonard Bertrand & Nettie May Sherman; joined Dec. 20, 1915 age 18. Death: Nov. 18, 1916, buried Vimy Memorial.
Pte Hector Seguin, McAlpine; lineman; b. April 29, 1893; single; son of Peter & Josephine Seguin; Joined Feb 8, 1916. Death: 27/06/1917, buried Vimy Memorial.
Pte Tom R. McCuaig, Vankleek Hill; cashier; b. July 9, 1890; single; son of late Thomas McCuaig & Sarah McCuaig of Montreal; joined March 15, 1916 age 25. Death: 01/05/1917, buried Vimy Memorial.
Corp. Lodge Downing, Fournier; merchant; b. Dec. 15, 1886; son of John G. & Ellen Downing; joined Sept. 5, 1914 age 28. Death: 11/06/1916, buried Railway Dugouts Burial Ground, Belgium.
Lieut. Tom R. Sample, Vankleek Hill, West Hawkesbury; bank clerk; b. Jan. 19, 1896; single; son of Mrs. Jos. A. Sample; joined Sept. 22, 1914 age 18. Death: 29/09/1918, buried Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux. Oct. 18, 1918 EOR: Sample, Tom KIA. Dec. 27, 1918 EOR: Memorial service held at Knox Presbyterian Church to honour Lieut. Tom Sample and Sgt. William Brown. In 1921, King George V sent a signed scroll to the Sample family thanking them for their sacrifice. Listed on Knox Presbyterian Church Memorial.
Pte Richard Calvank, Vankleek Hill; labourer; b. Oct. 4, 1892; single; son of Angus Calvank; joined Jan. 31, 1916. Death: Oct. 30, 1917, buried Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium (Passchendaele).
Pte William Robertson, KIA. Listed on Knox Presbyterian Church Memorial.
Pte Oliver Barton, Vankleek Hill; farmer; b. Dec. 20, 1897; single; son of Robert & Margaret Fraser Barton; joined Sept. 20, 1915 age 18. Death: Oct. 18, 1916, buried Adanac Military Cemetery, Somme. June 21, 1918 EOR: “A memorial service for the late Oliver and Gilbert Barton who were killed in action ‘somewhere in France’ at Knox Church. The church was patriotically draped and was filled to overflowing with citizens of all classes.” Listed on Knox Presbyterian Church Memorial.
Pte Morel Dupuis, Vankleek Hill; labourer; b. Sept. 16, 1880; wife Thérèse Dupuis; joined June 23, 1915 age 34. Death: 05/05/1916, buried Poperinghe New Military Cemetery (Ypres).
Pte Albert Laviolette, Vankleek Hill; bricklayer; b. Apr. 22, 1897; single; son of Frank Laviolette; joined Nov. 17, 1915 age 18. [Not on Vankleek Hill Memorial.] Albert and his brother signed-up together. Mike Laviolette, Vankleek Hill; labourer; b. Jan. 1, 1896; single; son of Frank Laviolette; joined Nov. 17, 1915 age 19; assigned to Canadian Grenadier Guards. June 21, 1918 EOR: “… He succumbed to an attack of gas. He died in the Hospital. He has a brother still at the Front. He was with one of the Forestry Battalions when he enlisted.”
Pte W.H. Bradley, son of Mrs. Geo. Bradley of Fenaghvale; 48th Highlanders; Aug. 30, 1918 EOR: Missing in Action. September 13, 1918 EOR: KIA. Death: Aug. 8, 1918, buried Hangard Wood British Cemetery, Somme.
Pte Arthur Crevier, Vankleek Hill; labourer; b. June 5, 1891; single; son of Mrs. Peter Crevier; drafted Feb. 21, 1918. [Not on Vankleek Hill Memorial.]
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
We will remember them.
— Legion Act of Remembrance, recited at memorial services around the world.
From “Poems for the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)