Arthur Peter McLaren Donald Jr.

Canadian War Graves Commission

My Maternal Great-Uncle

Arthur Peter McLaren Donald (1904-1945)

The older brother of my maternal grandmother, Maggie (week 1), was Arthur Peter McLaren Donald Jr. He was born on June 10, 1904 to Arthur Peter McLaren Donald Sr. and Catherine Devon (week 11) in Motherwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Arthur was their fifth child, however two of his older siblings died as toddlers prior to his birth.

Arthur grew up in the home in which he was born, leaving school at age 14, not uncommon in those times for large families of modest income. In 1929, just before his 25th birthday, Arthur sailed to Canada on the 'Antonia'  from Greenock port with his sister, Maggie, who was just 18 years old.  His plan was to work at farming upon his arrival in Canada, which he did for the next ten years in Hastings County in southeastern Ontario.

In 1939, Arthur married his wife, Olga, and the next year they had a daughter, Katherine Devon Donald.

In August of 1940, at the age of 36, Arthur volunteered to join the Canadian Army in service with the Algonquin Regiment.  His enlistment record indicates that he was a small man, standing 5' 3" and weighing 138 lbs. at the time.  He was of dark complexion with hazel eyes and blackish grey hair.  His eyesight, hearing and overall health was good.

Arthur served in Canada for over two years, in the United Kingdom for nineteen months and then in November 1944 his unit was sent to join the Western European Theatre of War.  Sadly by May 5th 1945, very close to the end of World War II, Private Arthur Donald was killed in action near Rastede, Germany.

Arthur's death certificate and most military records list his date of death as May 5, 1945 (exactly 69 years ago).  The War Diaries for the Algonquin Regiment describe their activities for these days and indcate that Arthur was killed on the evening of May 4th.

While people around the world were beginning to celebrate the end of the second world war, some troops were still in the field.  Arthur would have been one of the last Canadian casualites of the war.  May 4th was described as a cold and rainy day, for the most part. Arthur's unit had advanced into the Rastede vicinity and were searching for "enemy stragglers" and picking up prisoners of war.  Around 2000 hrs, while clearing a wood, they ran into some opposition and Private Arthur Donald was killed.

It is interesting, but very sad, the war diaries report that 30 minutes after Arthur's death, the enemy front had agreed to surrender unconditionally. And two hours later, the message was sent to all coys "all offensive will cease until further notice".  On May 5th, the surviving members of the Algonguin Regiment marched with others in a parade in Rastede, Germany to celebrate the capitulation of Germany; radio reports predicted that "VE" day would likely be declared in the coming week.

My great-uncle Arthur was buried in a temporary grave near Rastede; approximately a year later his remains were reburied in the Holten Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, Holland.  According to Veterans' Affairs, Canada, the great majority of those buried in Holten Canadian War Cemetery died during the last stages of the war in Holland. After the end of hostilities their remains were brought together into this cemetery. Holten Canadian War Cemetery contains 1,393 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.

Arthur left behind a young widow and his four year old daughter, who would have barely known him. He received the following war medals: Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; 1939-45 Star; France & German Star; Defence Medal; War Medal.

Olga and Arthur (about 1939)
Arthur's temporary grave in Rastede, Germany shortly after his death in 1945 (upper right) and his current grave at the Holton War Grave Cemetery in the Netherlands.

Memorial to Arthur Peter McLaren Donald Jr.

Book of Remembrance, Veterans' Affairs Canada. Arthur is the 10th name on the list. This page is displayed every October 29th in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower, Ottawa, Ontario.

"We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders Fields."

- John McCrae

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Schalene Dagutis | Reply 14.05.2014 15.01

I have the McLaren surname in my tree; married into my Muir line from Lanarkshire.

Schalene Dagutis | Reply 14.05.2014 15.00

What a moving tribute! And so sad he died so close to the end of the war.

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29.08 | 18:46

John. Can you email me at grannykba@gmail.com - then we can connect directly. ..

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16.08 | 11:58

Hi Karen, if you are interested, please visit my facebook page
regards john crome.

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16.08 | 10:36

Unfortunately Karen, I cannot offer any photo's but, I may have a small snapshot taken of me outside No 35, when I was about 3. If I can find it.

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16.08 | 10:03

Dear John. That's very interesting. Do you have any photos? I know it's gone now as I tried to find it when I visited London.

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