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
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.