|Date of Birth||December 28, 1865|
|Place of Birth||Stornoway, County of Ross|
|Next of Kin||Eunice McLeod (mother), Stornoway, Scotland|
|Trade / Calling||Carpenter|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||January 4, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||50|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||December 18, 1925|
|Age at Death||60|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
Private Duncan McLeod (Sr.) enlisted in January 1916, at age 50, and served in France with the 16th Battalion. He was wounded at the Vimy front in February and April 1917 and invalided back to Canada the following year. All four of his sons also served in the war and two of them died.
Duncan was born on 28 December 1865 in Laxdale, parish of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in northern Scotland. His parents were John Murdo McLeod, a crofter and mason, and Eunice McLean. He had at least three older sisters (Caty, Margaret and Joan) and two younger brothers (John and Donald). When the 1881 census was taken Duncan was listed as 16 years old, a private in the army and stationed at a garrison in Inverness-shire. He served for about three years with the Seaforth Highlanders, a regiment associated with the northern Highlands of Scotland. Duncan immigrated to Canada in 1887, arriving in June on the Siberian, age 21, a carpenter, his destination Rat Portage, Ontario where his sister Margaret was living. Not long after arriving there he married Mary Munro, who was also from Scotland, and they settled in the neighbouring town of Keewatin where he found work as a carpenter.
Duncan and Mary had seven children: John (1888), Margaret/Maggie Christa (1890), Alexander Stewart (1892), Annie Munro/Eunice (1893), William George (1895), Duncan (1897) and Mary Christina (1899). Sadly Mary died from postpartum complications the day their last child was born, 21 April 1899. After being widowed Duncan lived for awhile with his sister Margaret (Mrs. James Green) and her family in Keewatin. The Greens raised Mary Christina and she later moved to BC with them. Four of the children – John, Maggie, William and Duncan Jr. – were sent to Scotland to live with their grandparents, John and Eunice. When the 1911 census was taken Duncan was working as a carpenter in the Rainy River area. His son John had returned from Scotland and was also there with him. The war started three years later and Duncan, John and Alexander all enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. William and Duncan Jr. wre still living in Scotland and they served in the British army.
Duncan signed up with the 94th Battalion on 4 January 1916 in Kenora. He was 50 years old at the time but he shaved 10 years off his age, passing himself off as only 40. He was 5’6″ and 150 lb with blue eyes and brown hair. The 94th was based in Port Arthur and recruited throughout northwestern Ontario. In May 1916 the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to join the rest of the unit. They left for Quebec two weeks later and spent a short time at Valcartier Camp in Quebec before embarking from Halifax on the SS Olympic on 28 June. In England the recruits were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units. Two weeks after arriving Duncan was taken on strength with the 17th Reserve Battalion.
In the fall of 1916 the Canadian Corps suffered heavy losses at the Somme Offensive. In November Duncan was transferred to the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) and sent to France as a reinforcement. When he joined his new unit in early December they were in the Lens-Arras area, across from Vimy. In February 1917 the 16th Battalion had two rotations in the front line. During one of them Duncan was buried by the explosion of an artillery shell. He was rescued but it left him with permanent hearing loss in both ears. He remained with his unit as they prepared for the next major assault, the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which would start on Easter Monday, 9 April. From the war diary of the 16th Battalion, 8 April 1917, ‘The whole day was occupied in making final preparations for the offensive which commences tomorrow morning. Enemy is alert and shelled continuously during day.‘ Duncan was one of the casualties of the shelling that day, suffering a shrapnel wound to his right ankle.
He was evacuated to St. John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Étaples then transferred to a convalescent hospital a week later. On 20 April he was discharged to Details Camp but his wound continued to trouble him and he was back in the hospital at the end of the month. In mid-May Duncan was evacuated to England where he spent almost three weeks at No. 4 Southern General Hospital in Plymouth. After a short stay in a convalescent centre in Wokingham he was discharged and assigned to the Manitoba Regiment Depot. That summer a medical exam found Duncan to be overage and no longer medically fit for service. He left for Canada on the SS Olympic at the end of January 1918, landing in Halifax via New York on 13 February. He reported for duty at the depot in Winnipeg and was discharged there on 15 March. His conduct was described as good and he was entitled to wear one gold (casualty) stripe.
His son William George (MacLeod) died of wounds in June 1917, while serving with the Seaforth Highlanders. Alexander was killed in August 1917 at the Battle of Hill 70 while serving with the 7th Battalion. John Murdo, the oldest son, was wounded at Passchendaele in October 1917 and again in the summer of 1918, but he survived the war and returned to Canada in March 1919. Duncan Jr. joined the Seaforth Highlanders and served in Greece and Egypt. Duncan’s nephew Alfred James Green also enlisted and served overseas.
Duncan returned to Keewatin after the war but he lived only another seven years, suffering from chronic illness in the last few years of his life. He passed away on 18 December 1925, 10 days before his 60th birthday. He’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Sadly his daughter Mary Christina died in childbirth, like her own mother, in August 1919 at age 20. She left behind an infant daughter.
By Becky Johnson