Acting Sergeant William Ellerington McDonald enlisted in December 1916 and served with the Canadian Army Service Corps for two years in England, France and Belgium.
William was the youngest son of Duncan McDonald and Jane Wilson of Hamilton, Ontario. He was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on 3 January 1880 and came to Canada with his family when he was five years old. His parents had married in 1868 in Portlethen, Kincardine, Scotland, with his father listed as a journeyman mason and his mother a schoolmistress. William had five older brothers and sisters, all born in Kincardineshire: John (1869), Duncan (1871, died as a child), Ann (1873), Jane (1875) and Isabel (1877). Duncan immigrated to Canada first, probably early in 1885, and his wife and children joined him that fall, arriving in Quebec on 12 October on the SS Brooklyn. They settled in Hamilton where Duncan found work as a stone mason and stone cutter.
When the 1901 census was taken William was 21, living at home and listed as a soldier. On his attestation (in 1916) he recorded his previous military experience as seven years with the U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps. The Corps was formed in 1901 and was responsible for coastal and harbour defence, including the placement and monitoring of offshore mines. At the time of the 1910 U.S. census William was a private at the barracks of the 165th Company, Coast Artillery Corps, at Fort Totten in New York. The 165th was a mine company that was organized in Virginia in 1907 and moved to New York in 1908.
After his U.S. army service William returned to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He signed up on 5 December 1916 in Montreal, with his occupation listed as blacksmith and his address as his father's residence in Hamilton. He joined the 213th Battalion but two weeks later he was transferred to the No. 2 Canadian Army Service Corps Training Depot and he trained with them over the winter. Drafts of recruits were sent overseas as needed and William was sent with the No. 12 Toronto CASC Draft, which arrived in England on 22 April 1917 on the SS Carpathia. In May he was transferred to the CASC Reserve Depot at Shorncliffe and two months later he was sent to France, arriving in Boulogne on 11 July.
William spent four months in the CASC Pool before being transferred to the 1st Canadian Divisional Train on 9 November 1917. The unit, as part of the Canadian Army Service Corps, was responsible for the transportation of food, ammunition, equipment, clothing and supplies for the Canadian troops. When William joined them they were based near Ypres in Belgium. In February 1918 he was sent to an eye and ear hospital and found to have impaired hearing. In May he was transferred to the 1st Canadian Field Ambulance and he served with them for the next ten months, getting promoted to Farrier Corporal in July then to Acting Sergeant. In October he was given two weeks leave in Paris and when he rejoined his unit on 7 November they were near the Belgian border. Four days later the Armistice ended hostilities. The 1st Field Ambulance moved into Belgium in mid-November then continued east with the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions, crossing into Germany on 4 December. They spent five weeks there as an occupying force before returning to Belgium in mid-January 1919.
On 6 March William was transferred back his old unit, the 1st Canadian Divisional Train, which was also in Belgium at the time. According to their war diary the unit's 390 horses were turned over to the Belgian government on 24 March and the next day the men entrained for Le Havre on the coast. They underwent medicals before embarking for England on 28 March on the Duchess of Devonshire. They proceeded to Bramshott Camp and two weeks later William was on his way back to Canada. He arrived in Halifax on the SS Olympic on 21 April and he was discharged on 23 April in Toronto, with his intended residence listed as Hamilton. His mother had died in 1915, before he enlisted, and sadly his father passed away on 25 March 1919, just a month before William arrived back home.
After the war William was hired by the Canadian National Railway Company and he moved to the village of Redditt in northwestern Ontario. He joined the local branch of the Canadian Legion and when he retired from the railway he became the caretaker of the Legion building. William never married and he was predeceased by all of his brothers and sisters. He passed away in St. Joseph's Hospital in Kenora on 14 July 1956, at age 76. His funeral was held three days later and he's buried in the veterans section at the cemetery in Redditt.
By Kenora Great War Project