James Laughlin McDonald

Military Information

  • Date of enlistment:
  • Place of enlistment: Montrose
  • Service no: 7174
  • Rank: Private
  • Service Occupation:
  • Awards:
  • Regiment/Service: Gordon Highlanders
  • Unit/Ship: 1st Battalion
  • Place of Death: Belgium
  • Age at Death:
  • Date of Death: 25.08.1914
  • Burial Country: Belgium
  • Cemetery: Mons (Bergen) Communal Cemetery
  • Grave/Mem Ref no: IV.B.21.

Personal Information

  • Date of Birth: November 1874
  • Place of Birth: Dundee
  • Address: 9 Kinloch Street, Dundee
  • Occupation:
  • Mother:

    Ann McGuire McDonald

  • Father:
  • Siblings:
  • Spouse:

    Catherine Morrison English (formally McDonald) 81 Strathmartine Rd, Dundee

  • Children:

    James, born 24.11.1909, Jane, born 01.03.1911, Catherine, born 04.12.1912 & Edmund, born 22.03.1915

More about James Laughlin McDonald

James has an interesting story albeit his war was remarkably short having deployed as part of the first BEF to France on 13 Aug 1914 with the 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders.
Born in Dundee to his mother Ann McGuire McDonald in November 1879, his birth was registered in Dundee with the mother declaring that she had not seen or heard of her husband Alexander McDonald since 1874 and that in any event he was not James Father. It would appear from available records that they lived in the area of Todburn Lane, which was a tenemented area situated between Victoria Road and Princes Street/ Kings Street
On 22 January 1900 James enlisted into the Regular Army Gordon Highlanders serving in the Regiment’s 2nd Battalion in South Africa and was awarded the South Africa Medal with Clasps for Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal SA 1901-02. Following the South Africa campaign the 2nd Bn Served in the Peshawar area of India from where in December 1907 James embarked for Uk arriving in Gosport from where he was discharged to the Class 1 Regular Reserve in January 1908. James remained on the class 1 Reserve until 1911 when in December of that year,
Being on the Class 1 reserve James was now at home in Dundee, working as a Jute labourer and in 1909 he married Catherine Morrison at St Mary’s Forebank on 17 Feb 1909 and together they had 4 children, (James, Jane, Catherine and Edmund), living in the upper Hilltown area of Dundee in Kinnaird Street, Kinloch Street and Strathmartine Road
When nearing the end of his class 1 reserve service he agreed to be signed on for General Reserve and it was from the General Reserve in 1914 on declaration of War that James was mobilised to the 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders. Being a trained and experienced soldier he was quickly assimilated into the Bn and he embarked for France with the initial BEF landing in Boulogne on 13 August 1914 just 9 days after War was declared
James fought in the retreat from Mons and it was here that it is recorded he met his fate, with another interesting turn of events. The CWGC website and Ancestry.co.uk both give his date of death as Killed in Action on 25 August 1914 whereas the unit War Diary for 1st Gordons notes that the Bn were out of the line and in Billets on that day. The war diary also notes that on 23rd August the Bn in the fighting around Mons received a number of casualties with an Officer and 2 OR’s Killed and a number of others missing. Delving further into other available records it seems that an un-named officer reported that James was a Prisoner of War on 23rd August, and had suffered a serious wound to the left thigh involving compound , open fracture of the thigh bone, (femur). At this stage of the great war such Femur fractures involving open wounds carried an exceptionally high mortality and James was unofficially reported to have succumbed to his wounds. An excerpt from his service record clearly indicates 23rd August whereas contemporary official records such as CWGC and Ancestry.co.uk have fixed it as 25th August
It seems but a minor matter at this distance in time from the events of 1914 whether it was 23rd or 25th August as the date of death or whether he was Killed in Action or Died of Wounds. the fact was that the family, (of Catherine, and four young children), back in Dundee were now left without their breadwinner of Husband and Father in just a matter of days from the declaration of War. In addition to his South African medals he was entitled to the British War Medal, Victory Medal and the Mons Star, (1914 star with Clasp), all of which were sent on to his widow
Catherine went on to remarry in 1919 in Dundee to a John English also resident in Kinnaird Street. This being the case the family may still have descendants living in Dundee.

Additional information and images courtesy of Jim Flood, Dundonians at war in the Great War, Facebook Site.

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