Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 7, 1891
Place of BirthGlasgow
CountryScotland
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinThomas MacKay (father), 508 Kipperhill, Springburn, Glasgow, Scotland
Trade / CallingLabourer
ReligionPresbyterian
Service Details
Regimental Number439214
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 5, 1940
Age at Death49
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotRow 37E

MacKay, Thomas Stewart

Private Thomas Stewart MacKay enlisted in May 1915 and served for almost four years in Canada, England, France and Belgium. He returned to Canada with his unit, the 52nd Battalion, in March 1919.

Thomas was the oldest son of Thomas Stewart MacKay and Matilda Henderson of Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. His parents were married in Glasgow in 1885 and he was born there on 7 April 1891. He had an older sister Margaret and a younger brother James. He immigrated to Canada before the war started and by the time he enlisted in the spring of 1915 he was living in Kenora, Ontario. James had also moved to Kenora and Margaret was living in Russell, Manitoba.

The war started in August 1914 and Thomas enlisted the following spring, when volunteers were being recruited for a third overseas contingent. He signed up in Kenora with the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion on 20 May 1915. The unit was based in Port Arthur and the Kenora recruits were sent there in June to train with the rest of the volunteers. Thomas was given harvest leave in the fall and he probably worked on a farm in Manitoba for a few weeks. In November the battalion left for the east coast, embarking from Saint John, New Brunswick on 23 November on the SS California. After training for a few more weeks in England the men were sent to France on 20 February 1916. They spent the first night in tents in a snowstorm before being moved to Belgium by train the next day. On 23 February the battalion joined the Canadian Corps, becoming part of the 9th Brigade in the 3rd Canadian Division.

In June the battalion took part in the Battle of Mount Sorrel (2-13 June 1916), their ‘baptism of fire.’ Following the operation the Canadians stayed in the Ypres Salient, holding a section of the front line and carrying out frequent raids and patrols. Early in July Thomas’s unit had a rotation in the trenches and German artillery was very active while they were there. Thomas suffered a slight wound on 7 July but he was back on duty the same day. The Somme Offensive had started on 1 July and the first major battle for the Canadian Corps would be Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September). The 52nd Battalion boarded trains on 7 September and a week later they were at the Somme. On 16 September they took part in an attack west of the village of Courcelette. During the advance the men faced heavy machine gun and rifle fire and they suffered over 200 casualties while crossing open ground to reach their objective. They held the line until being relieved on 18 September and during that time Thomas suffered a bayonet wound to his left leg. He was evacuated to the County of London Hospital in Epsom, Surrey where he spent four months recovering, followed by two weeks in a convalescent centre.

After his recovery Thomas served at the Canadian Convalescent Depot until March 1917 when he was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion. He returned to France in December and rejoined the 52nd Battalion in the field in January 1918. That winter and spring the Canadian infantry units were not involved in any major battles but they were holding a long stretch of the front line near Arras in France. In February Thomas was out of action for a week when he was accidentally injured in the right thigh while opening a tin of meat with his knife. Late in April he was admitted to No. 1 Canadian General Hospital in Г‰taples, suffering from heart trouble and possible shell shock. Two days later he was transferred to a convalescent depot where he spent about six weeks. After a few months at the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp he rejoined the 52nd Battalion in August 1918 for what would be the final period of the war.

The Canadian units were heavily involved in the operations in those last three months and they had some of their greatest victories during that time. Following the Armistice Thomas had 14 days leave in the UK, returning to his unit just before Christmas. The 52nd Battalion stayed in Belgium for several more weeks, leaving there by train on 5 February 1919 and embarking from Le Havre for England on 10 February. The troops were sent to Bramshott Camp and most of them were immediately given eight days leave. After another month in England they left for Canada on 17 March on the SS Olympic. There was a huge reception when the men arrived back in Port Arthur and the unit was demobilized there at the end of the month. Thomas was officially discharged on 31 March with his intended residence listed as Russell, Manitoba where his sister was living. His brother James Stuart MacKay had also enlisted and he earned a Military Medal while serving with the 43rd Battalion in France.

Thomas and James both returned to Kenora to live and Thomas found work as a cook with the forestry branch of the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. He was a member of local chapters of the Canadian Legion, Odd Fellows and a Masonic Lodge. He passed away in Deer Lodge Veterans Hospital in Winnipeg on 5 July 1940, at age 49, and he’s buried in the veterans section of Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

By Becky Johnson

52nd-1915-05-19 52nd-1915-06-19 52nd-1915-12-08 MacKay-Thomas-90 MacKay-Thomas-91

 


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