PIPR NEIL W McDONALD 5TH C.R.H.
24155 Piper Neil Watson Macdonald
"A" Company, 13th Battalion, 5th Regiment
(Royal Highlanders), Canadian Infantry
missing presumed dead 24th April 1915
Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial
St Machar's Church Memorial, Bridge of Weir
The Wheatsheaf, Bridge of Weir
Son of John Macdonald and Louisa Hicks
Neil Watson Macdonald was born on 9h April 1881 at Leeds, Yorkshire, the fourth of a family of 11 (7 surviving by 1911) born to John Macdonald, originally from Bowmore, Islay, and Louisa Emily Hicks, from Leeds, Yorkshire, who had married in St George, Leeds, Yorkshire on 19th April 1876.
In 1881 John (31), Louisa E (26), and their first three children Ronald, John and Catherine, were living in The Clarendon Hotel, Victoria Road, Leeds where John was the innkeeper employing three men. The family employed a domestic Servant, Eliza Watkin (16).
In 1891 the Macdonald family of seven was at 5 Glossop Street, Leeds. John was now a traveller. Neil W (9) was at school. Marion Livingston, a 20 year old dressmaker from Scotland was boarding with them.
By 1901 John Macdonald was a wine and spirit merchant and traveller at the Wheat Sheaf, Bridge of Weir. Ronald was a clerk with a foreign merchant, John and Colin were distiller's clerks, Catherine helped her mother keep house. Neil was not in the family home but his details fit the Neil McDonald (sic) (19), born in England and boarding with Marion Burns in Shore Street, Bowmore, Islay working as a plumber's apprentice.
By 1911, the family had moved to 50 McCulloch Street, Pollokshields and John, now 61, had retired. Ronald and John were still clerks. The family later moved to 12 Melville Street. Neil emigrated to Canada in 1912.
In the years before he went to Canada, Neil had served with the Territorial Argyll & Bute Artillery and the 4th Lowland Howitzer Brigade in Glasgow. He signed his attestation papers in Canada on 23rd September 1914 as a plumber but also quoting 7 years' experience in the Royal Field Artillery. He was enlisted into the 5th Regiment (Royal Highlanders) and at the time of his death his army records place him in 13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders). The battalion had set sail as part of the First Contingent from Canada, arriving in Bustard Camp, Salisbury Plain, on 15th October 1914. The 13th Battalion was to form part of 3rd Brigade, 1st Division Canadian Expeditionary Force. After 4 months' training, the division arrived in St. Nazaire, France on 16th February 1915 and was immediately assigned to the Ypres Salient in Belgium. On 22nd April they witnessed the first use by the Germans of poison gas, causing the rapid retreat of the French Algerian troops (called "Turcos" in the Unit War Diaries) on the left flank of the Canadians. On 24th April 1915, the Canadians were holding part of the front line trenches north-east of St Julien, and came under heavy shelling and bombardment in both the front line trenches and later in the Reserve Trenches. Neil was reported missing presumed killed following that day's action. In these 48 hours, 6,035 Canadians - one man in every three - was lost from Canada's force of hastily trained volunteers.
Neil's name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial, one of 55,000 men lost without trace defending the Ypres Salient.
|1881 Census||1891 Census||1901 Census||1911 Census||Birthplace|
|Ronald S||3||Ronald S||13||Ronald S||25||Ronald S||33||Leeds, Yorkshire|
|John A||2||John A||12||John A||22||John A||32||Leeds, Yorkshire|
|Catherine E M||1||Catherine E M||21||Islay, Argyllshire|
|Neil W||9||Neil*||19||Leeds, Yorkshire|
|Colin D||8||Colin H||18||Leeds, Yorkshire|
|Grace H W||2||Grace W H||12||Leeds, Yorkshire|
|Margaret Mc C||8||Margaret Mc C||18||Glasgow, Lanark|
* = not in John and Louisa Macdonald's family home - see text for details
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- Scottish National War Memorial
- Canadian Virtual War Memorial
- Wasted Journey, The Buddies who never came back. Paisley Library. 940.467; PC17430: O/S
- Marriage of John McDonald and Louisa Emily Hicks 19th April 1876. Regd. Leeds, Yorkshire.
- 1881 UK Census: Class: RG11; Piece:4511; Folio:21; Page:35; GSU roll:1342082.
- 1891 UK Census: Class: RG12; Piece:3702; Folio:8; Page:9; GSU Roll:6098812.
- 1901 UK Census: Parish: Kilarrow; ED:2; Page:16; Line:2; Roll: CSSCT1901_183.
- 1901 UK Census: Parish: Houston; ED:1; Page:5; Line:16; Roll: CSSCT1901_188.
- 1911 UK Census: Parish: Govan. Ward: Kingston; . Page 19; lines 31-35. 644/18 012/00 019.
- Attestation Paper, Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, page 1, page 2; 23rd Sept 1914:
o Age, 33yrs 4 mths; Ht 5'5"; Chest 35"; Fair complexion; hazel eyes; brown hair; distended vein on right leg; 2 scars on left knee
- A History of the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) in the Great War, 1914-1918 - Volume 2. A G Wauchope. 1926. pp 349-50
- In 1904 the 5th Battalion Canadian Militia was affiliated to The Black Watch and since that date the bond of friendship between the two has been for many years past, a real part of the regiment.
In August 1914, when the call was made in Canada for men for service overseas, the response was great and the 5th was able to send three battalions in a short space of time. The first was numbered the 13th and, thanks to the special efforts of Colonel George Cantlie and Colonel Piers Davidson, the second and third battalions respectively were formed and given the titles and numbers of 42nd and 73rd...
The 13th Battalion was the first to leave Canada. Embarking at Quebec on the 'Alaunia' on September 26th, 1914, it arrived at Plymouth on October 14th and, after a short stay on Salisbury Plain, where it joined the 3rd Brigade, 1st (Canadian) Division, it eventually landed in France on February 16th, 1915...
The 13th Battalion had only been a short time in France when it took part in one of the fiercest battles of the war - the Second Battle of Ypres, when it was engaged in repelling the German gas attack on April 22nd, and in the subsequent fighting round St. Julien from the 24th to the end of the month.
On the 22nd, the 13th occupied the front line north-east of St. Julien on the extreme left of the Canadian line. Nos. 1,2 and 4 companies, left to right, were holding the front line, with two platoons of No. 3 company being at Battalion Headquarters at St. Julien. At 3 p.m. a heavy bombardment of the French Moroccan troops on the immediate left of the Battalion line followed the gas attack, and at 1.5 p.m. the Germans assaulted these troops and forced them to withdraw, leaving the left flank of the 13th exposed. The two platoons of No. 3 company were sent up to reinforce the front line, while another formed a defensive flank covering the exposed flank of the Battalion, and in this position the enemy was held up throughout the night. History will give just credit to the Canadian troops for the part played by them in this battle but, posted as they were on the left flank of the Canadian Division, no praise can be too high for the gallant efforts of the 13th Battalion in this hard-fought action.
During three days of continuous fighting the 13th had held their ground and repulsed all attacks. The Battalion was reduced to half its strength, having suffered 454 casualties. As Sir John French truly said, "the bearing and conduct of the splendid Canadian troops averted a serious disaster."
- War Diary WO 95/3776. National Archives: 13th Canadian Battalion: St Julien: 1915:
- 22nd April. Quiet all day until about 5pm when enemy commenced a terrific bombardment and also sent over a great cloud of gas on the frontage held by the Turcos on our immediate left. The Turcos had to retire and this left our left flank open to the enemy. No. 5 Company were called up from Reserve, and one Company of the Buffs also reinforced us. Major Buchanan assumed charge of the front line.
- 23rd April. Shelled and 'Gassed' all day. The Battalion were ordered to evacuate the trenches which was done without the loss of a man.
- 24th April. Heavily shelled and bombarded. Machine guns very busy. Held the line until 7.30 a.m. when the Battalion was forced to retire to Reserve Trenches. Held the Reserve Trenches until 2 p.m. when we were shelled out and retired to the G.H.Q. trenches.
- 25th April. Sunday. Held trenches all day and then marched to Brayling arriving there at 4.30 a.m.
- Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette
- 5th June 1915: Mrs McDonald, 12 Melville Street, Pollokshields, received official notification that her son, Piper Neil Watson McDonald, 5th Royal Highlanders of Canada, A company, (1st Canadian contingent) has been missing since 23rd April (believed killed). Previous to going to Canada in 1912 he served with the Argyll & Bute Artillery and was several years in the 4th Lowland Howitzer Brigade, Glasgow. For some years he resided in Bridge of Weir and in his younger years he was in the Boys Brigade.
- Evening Times, Glasgow:
- 2nd June 1915: ROLL OF HONOUR: Information has been received by Mrs. MacDonald, 12, Melville Street, Pollokshields, that her son, Piper Neil Watson MacDonald, 5th Royal Highlanders, of Canada, A Company, has been missing since 23rd April (believed killed). He was a son of the late Mr. John MacDonald, a native of Bowmore, Islay.
- Medals: Victory, British War, 1915 Star.
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