Lt. Col. E.W. MacDonald

Lieutenant Colonel E. W. MacDonald, D.S.O., M.C.
10th (White Gurkhas) BattalionMacdonaldEW

Early in the day, before the attack, and again in the afternoon, he made personal reconnaissances over fire-swept ground, gaining first-hand information which enabled him to handle his men and direct the fire of his guns with remarkable success. His fine leadership, coolness and disregard of danger, carried his men along with him.

(D.S.O. Bar citation, Gazette, 2 Jan 1919)

On 24 May 1918, Eric Whidden MacDonald became the youngest battalion commander in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia on 20 July 1892. He moved to Calgary in 1913 to become an accountant with the Canadian Oil Company. He enlisted with the 10th Battalion in September 1914.

He rose through the ranks and proved himself in battle, earning the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross. He assumed command of the 10th in late May following the promotion of Dan Ormond to brigadier general. By the end of the war, he had won a D.S.O. Bar and been four times mentioned in dispatches.

MacDonald returned to his native Nova Scotia after the war and became commissioner of the provincial police. He was later supplies director for the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps in Halifax and took a civil service position with the Department of National Defence in Ottawa.

He died from a gunshot to the head on 12 November 1947. Police suspected he had accidentally shot himself while cleaning his Webley service revolver.

3 thoughts on “Lt. Col. E.W. MacDonald

  1. “White Gurkhas”? What a truly odd nickname for a unit. I suppose it used that name in the same way that American Zouave units of the Civil War used that term.

    • Yes, it is an interesting juxtaposition. Tim Cook’s recent book on Vimy quotes a private: “To-day the Canadians in France are known by the enemy as the ‘white Gurkhas,’ and this, to us, is one of the highest compliments. The Gurkhas are considered bravest of the brave. Shall we not be proud to share a title such as this?”

  2. That raises an interesting point. My grandfather, one of his brothers, and one of his sons, all went to the Great War from Canada. One of my uncles and one of his uncles (who had served in World War One) went for World War Two. Canada has a proud military history dating back to at least the War of 1812, which it can legitimately claim to have won.

    But do Canadians remember? Today the more common view seems to be to accept the American view of Canada that has it never fighting any wars.

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