Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 12, 1881
Place of BirthGeorgetown
CountryBritish Guiana
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinRobert Charles MacPherson (brother), Demerara, British Guiana, South America
Trade / CallingTinsmith and clerk
Service Details
Regimental Number439611
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 9, 1915
Age at Enlistment34
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details

MacPherson, Duncan Rupert

Private Duncan Rupert MacPherson enlisted in August 1915 and served with the 52nd Battalion in Belgium and France. He suffered shell shock at the Somme in September 1916 and he spent the rest of the war in Great Britain.

The war started in August 1914 and by December a third Canadian overseas contingent was being raised. In Kenora the third contingent volunteers were assigned to the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion when it was organized in March 1915. The unit was based in Port Arthur and the men trained there during the summer. In July 250 of the recruits were sent to England as a reinforcing draft and more volunteers were needed to bring the battalion back up to strength. Two officers returned to Kenora on 2 August and reopened the recruiting depot. Duncan was living in the Kenora area at the time, probably in Keewatin, and he enlisted a week later, on 9 August. His occupation was listed as both clerk and tinsmith. According to his attestation he was born on 12 March 1881 in Georgetown, British Guiana, South America and next of kin was his brother Robert Charles MacPherson in Demerara, British Guiana.

Duncan was sent to Port Arthur to train with the rest of the recruits and in early November the battalion headed to the east coast. They embarked from St. John on 23 November on the SS California and arrived in Plymouth ten days later. After a few more weeks of training the men were sent to France on 20 February 1916. From there they were moved by train to Belgium. On 23 February the unit became part of the 9th Infantry Brigade in the 3rd Canadian Division and in early March ¬†they went into the trenches for the first time. Later that month the Canadians took up positions in the south part of the Ypres Salient and the 52nd Battalion moved there on 1 April. On 7 April Duncan was sentenced to three days Field Punishment No. 2 for ‘sleeping in front line trenches without equipment.’

Two months later the Battle of Mount Sorrel started with an intense bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. After the barrage German infantry advanced and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas. The 52nd was involved in heavy fighting several times over the next ten days. Most of the lost ground was recaptured and the battle ended on 13 June with little change to the front lines but at a cost of 8,000 Canadian casualties. The Somme Offensive began later that summer and the first major battle for the Canadian Corps was Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September). The 52nd Battalion boarded trains on 7 September and a week later they were in the Somme area. On 16 September they took part in the attack near 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. Duncan was blown up by a shell explosion either that day or shortly after and he suffered shell shock. He also sprained his ankle while coming out of the trenches.

Duncan was admitted to No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station on 23 September and two days later he was moved to No. 32 Stationary Hospital in Wimereux. He spent a week there followed by a month at No. 1 Convalescent Depot in Boulogne. He was still in poor health so he was evacuated to England in early November and posted to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre at Shoreham. A medical report noted that he had malaria in 1906 and he’d suffered frequent further attacks since then. He was assigned to the Manitoba Regiment Depot on 10 March 1917. Starting on 20 April he served with the Canadian Postal Corps, London Base for five weeks. Afterwards he was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion, where he remained until the war ended. He embarked for Canada on 22 November 1918 on the SS Aquitania, arriving in Halifax a week later. He was discharged on 14 January 1919 in Winnipeg, due to being medically unfit for further war service.

On 4 August 1919 the town of Keewatin held a ceremony to pay tribute to the local returned soldiers and to honour those who had fallen. The day included sports events, a parade of returned men and cadets, a promenade concert and dance, speeches and the presentation of medals. Duncan was on the list of medal recipients and his silver medal was engraved with his name and the words, ‘For Gallant Service in the Great War 1914-1918. Keewatin Aug.4/19.’

When the 1921 census was taken Duncan was living on Wharf Street in Keewatin and working as a labourer. He was 40 years old, born in British Guiana with his year of immigration to Canada listed as 1909. He said both of his parents were born in Scotland. Nothing further is known of Duncan’s life, and his death date and place of burial have not been found.

By Becky Johnson

52nd-1915-12-08 baj-1919-08-06 1919-08-09-Roll

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