Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 1, 1892
Place of BirthHuron County, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Sarah Ann MacDonald (mother), Mitchell, Ontario
Trade / CallingJeweler
Service Details
Regimental Number72098
Service RecordLink to Service Record
BattalionNo 5 Squadron
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Air Force
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentOctober 22, 1914
Age at Enlistment22
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarYes
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 29, 1947
Age at Death55
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotAngel Crest Block, 55E-33-3

MacDonald, Roy (Leroy)

Flight Lieutenant Roy MacDonald was working as a jeweller in Kenora, Ontario when he enlisted in the fall of 1914. Over the next four years he served in England, France and Belgium, first with the Canadian Expeditionary Force then as a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps. In 1918 his plane was shot down and he spent eight months as a prisoner of war. After his release he served with the Royal Air Force in the North Russia campaign before returning home to Kenora in November 1919.

Roy grew up in Wingham, Turnberry Township, Huron County, Ontario. He was raised by his grandparents David MacDonald and Sarah Ann Mitchell. David, a shingle maker and saw mill worker, was born in Inverness, Scotland and came to Canada as a child with his parents. His wife was born in Ontario (called Upper Canada at the time) to British immigrant parents. David and Sarah were married in Huron County in January 1867 and they had eight children, four sons and four daughters (Ellen, David, Charlotte, Andrew, Robert, Sarah, Harriet and Norman). Leroy, usually known as Roy, was Ellen’s son and he was born in Wingham on 1 February 1892. Ellen died of tuberculosis in 1895, at age 27, and Roy’s grandfather passed away six years later, in 1901.

Around 1910 Roy moved to the town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario, where he found work as a jeweller at Rioch’s Jewellery Store. The militia was very popular with young men at the time and not long after arriving he joined the local militia unit, the 98th regiment. He was also very athletic and was active in Kenora’s hockey, baseball and rowing clubs. The war started in August 1914 and two months later a second Canadian contingent was being raised for service overseas. Roy enlisted in Kenora on 22 October, joining the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion. The battalion had just been organized and it was being recruited in Manitoba as well as the Kenora and Rainy River area. Roy headed to Winnipeg on 1 November 1914 along with fifteen other local volunteers and over the winter they trained in Manitoba. The following spring the battalion left for the UK. The trains passed through Kenora on 13 May 1915 and a huge crowd gathered at the station to wish the local lads well and see them on their way. The battalion embarked from Quebec on 17 May on the SS Carpathia and the men spent several months training at Shorncliffe and Otterpool in England. On 17 September they marched to Folkestone on the coast where they boarded the SS Marguerite, disembarking at Boulogne, France the following day, and less than a week later the battalion was in Belgium.

Service in the CEF

That fall and winter the Canadians were holding a section of the front line south of Ypres. There were no major operations for them but the policy was one of aggressive activity against the Germans, including raids on their trenches. The battalions had regular rotations in the front lines and the men also spent time in work parties, digging and repairing trenches and dugouts, training and going on patrols. On 22 January 1916 Roy was transferred from the 27th Battalion to the 2nd Sanitary Section in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. The 2nd Sanitary Section was a small unit of only about two dozen men. From the war diary their duties included: working with the engineers to provide water for drinking, cooking, laundries, baths and horses; installing latrines; disposing of refuse and horse manure; collecting and disposing of water and waste from kitchens, baths, laundries and latrines; building and operating incinerators for garbage and other waste; inspecting and cleaning billets, rest camps, baths, cookhouses and laundries; inspecting trenches; dispersing or neutralizing poison gas; and disinfecting billets and tents when there were cases of infectious diseases.

The Somme Offensive started on 1 July 1916 and the Canadians were moved to the Somme area in late August. Roy’s unit was based near the town of Albert and they were kept very busy as sanitary conditions there were found to be appalling. There were piles of refuse and manure, no incinerators, too many troops crowded into a small area, not enough latrines, unburied bodies and hordes of flies. The Canadians suffered heavy casualties in battles in September and for several days Roy’s unit assisted at a Casualty Clearing Station, dressing and attending to the wounded. When the new 4th Canadian Division arrived at the Somme in late October the 2nd Sanitary Section was relieved and they moved north to the area across from Vimy, where the Canadian Corps would spend the winter. In the spring Roy became a candidate for a commission and on 3 April 1917 he left for London, England.

Service as a pilot

Roy attended No. 1 School of Military Aeronautics in Reading, England and on 30 May he received a commission in the Royal Flying Corps. After another six weeks of flight school he was transferred to No. 64 Training Squadron, spending two months with them. During that time he attended Ruffy-Baumann School in Acton, near London, where he trained on the Caudron biplane. He graduated as a Flying Officer on 27 August 1917. In September he was attached to No. 5 Squadron and sent to France with the rank of Flight 2nd Lieutenant. No. 5 Squadron worked closely with the Canadian Corps, specializing in artillery observation, but they also did night reconnaissance and ¬†carried out bombing missions. On 16 February 1918 Roy was sent on a bombing operation over the German lines. He was flying an R.E.8, a British biplane used as a reconnaissance and bomber aircraft. During the mission Roy’s plane was hit by artillery or gun fire and he was forced to land in enemy territory. He was wounded and taken as a prisoner of war. In a letter to his brother Andrew, published in the Kenora newspaper that May, he said he had recovered from his wound except for a slight limp. He wrote the letter from Karlsruhe, an officers’ prison camp in southwest Germany, not far from the French border. He spent eight months as a prisoner of war and he may have been moved to other camps during that time. The Armistice ended hostilities on 11 November and Roy was repatriated to England about two weeks later.

On 1 April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service had been amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force. Following a period of leave in December 1918 Roy continued to serve as a pilot but he was now a Lieutenant in the RAF. In May 1919 he volunteered to go to Archangel to take part in the North Russia campaign. Archangel was on the White Sea, just east of Finland, and the campaign was a continuation of the fight against the Bolsheviks that had started with the Allied intervention in the spring of 1918. The aviation corps consisted of both British and Russian personnel and they were kept very busy. At that latitude there were long hours of daylight in the summer and the pilots provided ongoing support for the ground and naval forces as well as carrying out bombing and reconnaissance missions. Roy served there until late September 1919, when the British forces were withdrawn. He returned to England where he was discharged from service at the end of October, five years after enlisting.

After the war

Roy arrived in Halifax on the SS Baltic on 8 November and he was back in Kenora four days later. On the ship’s passenger manifest his destination was listed as Expanse, Saskatchewan, where his brother Andrew lived. Roy may have spent some time in Expanse but when the 1921 census was taken he was lodging at the Railway YMCA in Kenora and working as a watchmaker. In October 1921 he was married in Winnipeg to a Kenora girl, Ethel Holland, the oldest daughter of Arthur and Margaret Holland. Roy and Ethel made their home in Kenora and they had one child, their son Carmen Leroy, who was born in 1922. Roy became the manager of a jewellery store and later worked for an oil company. He was very involved in local amateur sports, acting as president, manager or coach for several hockey and baseball teams. His son Carmen enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery in the Second World War and served in France, Belgium and Germany. He married a war bride, Mary Margaret Carroll, in 1943 in Scotland. Carmen was also very active in sports, playing both hockey and baseball, and very involved in the local militia and the Legion. Sadly he died suddenly in January 1947 at age 24, in Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg. His death was considered to be due to service and at his funeral there was a guard of honour and firing party. Roy passed away later that same year, on 29 November 1947, after an illness of several months. He was survived by his wife Ethel, his daughter-in-law Margaret, his sister Mrs. Charlotte Dodds of Vancouver and two brothers, David Maitland of Chilliwack, BC and Norman of Wingham, Ontario. Roy and his son are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

By Becky Johnson

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