Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 25, 1894
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinWilliam I. Margach (father), 9215 99th Street, Edmonton, Alberta
Trade / CallingLumberman
Service Details
Regimental Number79299
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion31st Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentEdmonton, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentNovember 17, 1914
Age at Enlistment19
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death1980
Age at Death85 or 86

Margach, Donald James

Private Donald James Margach enlisted three months after the war started and served in France and Belgium with the 31st Battalion. He was wounded in April 1916 and invalided back to Canada that fall.

Donald was born on 25 November 1894 in Rat Portage, Ontario. His parents, William Innes Margach and Margaret Dunbar Hay, were both born in southern Ontario. They were married in 1889 in Margaret’s hometown of Whitby. William Innes was a lumber merchant and he and his wife lived in Port Arthur for a few years. Two children were born there: Gray McKay (1891) and Margaret (1892). By 1894 they had moved to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), where William continued to work in the lumber industry. Three children were born in Rat Portage: Donald (1894), William (1897) and Florence (1902). William Innes’ father (William Margach) and uncle (James Margach) were also living in Rat Portage and involved in lumbering. By 1906 William Innes and his family had moved to Calgary, Alberta and the youngest child, Walter Ross, was born there in 1907. Around 1911 they moved again, this time to Edmonton, and William Innes became president of Jasper Forest Saw Mills.

When the war started the three oldest boys all enlisted. Donald was already serving in the active militia with the 19th Alberta Dragoons. He enlisted in Edmonton on 17 November 1914, signing up with the 31st Battalion. His occupation was lumberman and next of kin was his father in Edmonton. The 31st Battalion had just been organized in early November. After training over the winter the recruits embarked for the UK in May 1915 on the SS Northland and the SS Carpathia. They spent four months in England before being sent to France in September, where they became part of the 6th Infantry Brigade in the new 2nd Canadian Division.

The Canadians spent the winter of 1915-16 in Belgium, holding a section of the front line between Ploegsteert Wood and St. Eloi. Starting in late March 1916 they took part in the fighting at St. Eloi Craters and Donald was seriously wounded on or around 6 April while on duty in the trenches. He was hit in the shoulder by a shell fragment then a short time later another shell exploded nearby, fracturing his right femur. He was admitted to No. 23 General Hospital on 8 April and evacuated to England three weeks later on the hospital ship Lanfranc. He recovered for the next four months at hospitals in Taplow, Uxbridge and Buxton. He was invalided to Canada on 15 September, sailing from Liverpool on the SS Missanabie and arriving in Quebec about eight days later.

Donald was sent to a convalescent home in Calgary. When his right leg healed it was shorter than before and he was left with a permanent limp. He was discharged in Calgary on 29 December 1916, due to being medically unfit for further war service. His brother William Margach enlisted four days later, on 2 January 1917, and he served overseas with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. Their oldest brother Gray McKay Margach enlisted in 1916 and served for more than three years in Canada, Great Britain and France.

After the war Donald had a long career in the civil service with the federal government and the province of Alberta. His parents moved to Vancouver and he was married there on 10 October 1919. His address at the time was Vancouver and his occupation was tie inspector. His wife, Helen Campbell, was the daughter of Daniel John Campbell and Isabella McLachlan. She was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1897 and immigrated to Canada with her family in 1907.

Donald and Helen made their home in Calgary except for a short time spent in Hesketh, Alberta. They had three children: William Campbell (1920-2006), Robert Douglas (1922-1953) and Dorothy (Mrs. Donald Murdoch ‘Bud’ McDonald). The two boys served overseas in the Second World War, William with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps and Robert with the Royal Canadian Artillery. Donald’s parents both died in Vancouver, his mother in 1938 and his father in 1954. Donald retired around 1960 and passed away in Calgary in 1980; his wife died in 1990.

By Becky Johnson

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