Recognizing the Macpherson Brothers’ service in the First and Second World War

November 22, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By August Bettinelli

In honour of Remembrance Day, the Citizen is recognizing five brothers from Orangeville who served in the First and Second World War.

The MacPherson brothers fought in some of the most famous battles; including Ypres, Sommes, and Passchendaele, while displaying valor in their commitment to try and attain peace.

John “Ross” Macpherson

John, born in Orangeville on March 24, 1890 to Sarah (Wilson) and Dugald Macpherson, was the oldest of the five Macpherson brothers.

Before enlisting, he attended the University of Saskatchewan and was Editor of the school’s newspaper, Sheaf Magazine, for three years.

On March 16, 1915, John made the courageous decision to join the armed forces, enlisting with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in Saskatoon.

Thirteen days later, along with the 1st University Company, Macpherson travelled to England as a Sergeant before transferring to Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) on July 16, 1915 and heading into France.

The battle of Ypres introduced a new element to the war: chlorine gas.

On April 22 of 1915, the first large-scale use of chlorine gas – a greenish/yellow mist that, when exposed to, instantly causes irritation of the eyes, nose, lungs and throat; and that can lead to asphyxiation – was unleashed on the Allied Troops.

Overall, the use of chemical warfare throughout Word War One would claim between 90,000 and 100,000 lives.

Lasting a horrific four and a half months and killing 24,000 Canadian’s, the Battle of Sommes led to the capture of the “Sugar Refinery” – but costing both the allies and the enemies many lives.

Furthermore, Passchendaele exposed soldiers to dreadful conditions, killed 4,000 Canadian’s, but played a role in securing Canada’s independence signature on the Treaty of Versailles – along with pushing the enemy out of the village.

John’s contributions in these battles led to several promotions; including Lieutenant on April 17, 1916 and Captain in May of 1917.

He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order for capturing a strong enemy point in Passchendaele.

On December 23, 1917; John Ross was invalided to England with a hernia, and once recovered, he returned to France on May 24, 1918.

In August of 1918, he was promoted to Major of the PPCLI, but sadly was killed in action later that month in Jigsaw Wood, Monchy-le-Preux.

Douglas William Macpherson

Born June 21, 1892 Douglas William Macpherson was an insurance agent, along with a member of the Militia – 60th Rifles.

While in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Douglas enlisted with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary on September 10, 1915.

He travelled to England with the 46th Battalion, a Canadian-Scottish group, and was wounded in Regina Trench on October 8, 1916 during the Battle of Sommes.

Macpherson was invalided to England, where he received commission as a lieutenant on July 1st, 1917.

After he recovered, Douglas rejoined his regiment on April 10, 1918; fighting in the Battle of Amiens – a battle deemed the “beginning of the end” for the enemy soldiers – and all future engagements.

Returning home to Canada on June 6, 1919, Macpherson received an honourable discharge, along with being awarded the Military Cross in Buckingham Palace shortly before he left England.

Home at last, Douglas met his wife, Jeanette Newman, and the pair married in December of 1923.

Macpherson eventually passed away in British Columbia on October 5, 1987 at the age of 95.

Donald Stuart Mapherson

Donald Stuart Macpherson was the third eldest of the five brothers.

Born on March 17, 1895, Donald was a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Education, a teacher at Annette Street School in Toronto, and a member of the Active Militia, serving one

year with the Canadian Officers Training Corps before enlisting with the 67th University Battery Canadian Field Artillery.

He served with this group from July to October of 1916, fighting in the Battle of Sommes before travelling to England with the Artillery Draft on October 26, 1916.

In January of 1917, Donald traveled to France with the 9th Battery CFA and fought in Vimy Ridge, along with Passchendaele: a battle in which his actions granted him a military medal.

He rose to the rank of Lieutenant in May of 1918 following the completion of a Cadet Course in England, then returning to France on May 31, 1918 with the 23rd Battery CFA.

Unfortunately, Donald was severely wounded by gunshots to the face and legs during the Battle of Amiens on August 8, 1918 and was invalided to England on August 24, then to Canada on February 14, 1919.

He was discharged from the military on March 22, 1919.

Somewhere along the way, he married his wife; Carrie Birdsall (McFayden), and at the age of 96, Donald passed away on August 19, 1991 in Port Hope, Ontario.

Ewart Gladstone Macpherson

Enlisting at the age of 18 on December 8, 1915, Ewart Gladstone Macpherson was a high school student and a member of the 36th Peel Battalion in the Active Militia.

He began his service with Sergeant training at the Shelburne Company of the Dufferin-Halton Battalion, and from there he took courses at the Officers Training School in Toronto to earn the rank of Lieutenant in January of 1917.

Ewart went with the 164th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force to England in April of 1917 before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps and Commissions in November of that year.

This would begin his career as a member of the Canadian Air Force, fighting in World War One, and courageously choosing to re-enlist in November of 1939.

After returning home and being discharged on May 20, 1919; Ewart went about his life, marrying Muriel Isabelle Riddell on February 24, 1922 and later became father to John Ross – named after his late brother. He had two other children, Barbara Kerr and Robert Alan.

During the Second World War, Ewart served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a flight lieutenant, before being promoted to a Wing Commander in 1941.

He was a temporary Commanding Officer at the No. 1 Initial Training School in Toronto, and an Administrative Officer, progressing to a Commanding Officer at the No. 2 Training School.

Ewart died in 1989 at the age of 91 in Vancouver, British Columbia and his wide passed away four years and two days later in 1993.

Arthur Macpherson

Arthur Macpherson, born September 22, 1900 was the youngest of the five brothers.

He served as a chaplain – a military religious leader who aids soldiers and their families with spiritual well-being – in World War Two.

Before joining the armed forces, he was a student at The Maples and Glen Cross, and served at Mono Mills and in Toronto.

Arthur was ordained in the United Church of Canada.

On August 8, 1934 he married his wife, Sarah Ethel Macdonald, of whom he had two children with: Hugh Gorden and Janet Ellen Agnes.

Arthur died on November 19, 1983 in Port Hope, Ontario at the age of 83.

The dedication, strength and bravery of soldiers like the Macpherson brothers has played a key role in creating a free and peaceful country, which we enjoy today. It is important to remember the sacrifices made, and the lives lost, so society can avoid repeating the dreadful history that so many have lived through.

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