|Date of Birth||January 16, 1890|
|Place of Birth||Minnedosa, Manitoba|
|Next of Kin||Farquar McRae (father), Hanley, Saskatchewan|
|Trade / Calling||Sawmill sawyer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Conscripted|
|Place of Enlistment||Calgary, Alberta|
|Address at Enlistment||c/o H. Hudson, Taber, Alberta|
|Date of Enlistment||January 18, 1918|
|Age at Enlistment||28|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||July 11, 1936|
|Age at Death||46|
|Buried At||Burnsland Cemetery, Calgary, Alberta|
|Plot||Section C, Block 1, Lot 24|
Private Alexander Norman McRae was called up in January 1918 and served in France with the 10th Battalion. He was wounded in September 1918, during the Hundred Days Offensive, and invalided back to Canada the following summer.
Alexander was the son of Farquar/Farquhar McRae and Matilda Elizabeth Thompson. He was born on 16 January 1890 in Minnedosa, Manitoba, the eighth of ten children. His parents were both born in Ontario, called Canada West at the time. They were married on 11 October 1876 in the township of Mara in Ontario County. Their first child, Lillian Rhoda, was born in 1877 in Ontario. By the fall of 1879 they had moved to Manitoba and settled in the Minnedosa area where they took up farming. Nine children were born there: Hannah Margaret, Lynds Farquhar, John Oswald, Isabelle Maud Victoria, William Milton, Henry Thompson, Alexander Norman, Annie May and Duncan William.
When the 1901 census was taken the family was living in the town of Minnedosa and Farquar was working in a sawmill. Starting around 1907 Alexander spent some time in Kenora and Keewatin, in northwestern Ontario, possibly working in one of the sawmills in the area. He joined the local militia unit, the 98th Regiment, and they trained at Camp Hughes in Manitoba for a few weeks each summer. In June 1910 he crossed into the U.S. on his way to Beaudette, Minnesota, with Keewatin listed as his last permanent address. At the time of the next census in 1911 he was in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
By the summer of 1917 the war was in its fourth year and conscription started in Canada that fall. Alexander was living in Alberta by then and he registered as required and had his medical in Lethbridge on 16 November. He was called up in Calgary on 18 January 1918 and assigned to the 1st Depot Battalion, Alberta Regiment. His occupation was sawmill sawyer and his address was c/o H. Hudson in Taber, Alberta. Just a month later Alexander was on his way overseas, embarking from Halifax on 19 February on the SS Melita and arriving in England in early March.
On 4 March Alexander was transferred to the 21st Reserve Battalion and he trained with them for five months. The final period of the war started with the Battle of Amiens in August and the Canadians were heavily involved in operations in those last three months. On 8 August Alex was drafted to a front line unit, the 10th Battalion, and sent to France. He joined the battalion in the middle of the month, just after the Battle of Amiens. Following the Amiens offensive the Canadians took part in the assault on the Drocourt-Quéant Line, southeast of Arras. The 10th Battalion was involved in heavy fighting on 2 September and Alexander was one of the casualties that day. He suffered bullet or shrapnel wounds to his upper abdomen, which perforated his bowel.
While walking about 5 km to a first aid station Alexander was wounded again, this time in the back. He was taken to a casualty clearing station where he had surgery to repair his bowel then he was transferred to No. 2 Stationary Hospital in Boulogne on 6 September. From there he was evacuated to England. He was admitted to Beaufort War Hospital in Bristol on 11 September, where he recovered until 23 December. Over the next six months he was a patient at the Bearwood convalescent centre, No. 4 General Hospital in Basingstoke, the Canadian Special Hospital in Witley and No. 5 Canadian General in Liverpool.
Alexander was invalided to Canada on the hospital ship Araguaya, sailing from Liverpool on 30 June and arriving in Portland, Maine on 8 July. On 11 July he was admitted to Camp Hospital in Halifax and while he was there he had pieces of metal removed from his lumbar muscles. He was released from the hospital on 2 October and discharged from the army on 7 October in Halifax, due to demobilization and being medically unfit. His intended residence was Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Alexander was married on 16 June 1920 to Flora Elizabeth Muir. Flora, a bookkeeper, was the daughter of Thomas Alexander Muir and Violet Steele of Highfield, New Brunswick. She was born on 7 October 1892 in English Settlement (now part of Highfield) and she had at least six brothers and sisters. Her father was widowed by 1901. Alexander and Flora were married in Highfield, where her family was still living.
When the 1921 census was taken Alexander, Flora and their infant daughter Eva Edna were living in High River, Alberta. Alexander was working as a gas engineer at an airdrome. Eva was followed by two sons, Donald Muir (1922) and George Alexander (1926). The family moved to Calgary around 1926 and sadly Flora died there in December 1928, at age 36. She’s buried in Burnsland Cemetery.
Alexander passed away at Colonel Belcher Hospital on 11 July 1936, at age 46. His funeral was held on 14 July and he’s also buried in Burnsland. Other family members interred there include Flora’s brothers David Julian Muir and George Saunders Muir. Alexander and Flora’s daughter Eva (Mrs. William E.D. Bowley) (1921-2002) is buried in Calgary’s Eden Brook Memorial Gardens. Son George (1926-1980) is interred at Queen’s Park Cemetery and Donald (1922-1991) at Rocky View Garden of Peace Cemetery, both in Calgary.
Two of Flora’s brothers were veterans of the First World War. George Saunders Muir was living in Calgary when he enlisted and he served in France and Belgium with the Canadian Forestry Corps. Thomas Howard Muir enlisted in New Brunswick and served overseas with the Canadian Machine Gun Corps. Both of Alexander and Flora’s sons served in the Second World War, George with the Royal Canadian Engineers and Donald with a tank regiment in Sicily, France and Germany. Donald’s son had a long career in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
By Becky Johnson
Family photos courtesy of the McRae family tree on Ancestry.ca.
Grave marker photos courtesy of Milou (#46858724), Findagrave.