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Saturday, 30 July 2016

Remembering Private John Kenneth MacDonald - KIA July 30, 1916

John Kenneth MacDonald was born at Caledonia, Guysborough County on July 23, 1892, the fourth child and second son born to James Cumming and Margaret Annabelle “Maggie” (McQuarrie) MacDonald. Two of Kenneth’s older siblings—including his only brother, Wallace—died of meningitis during childhood.

In 1905, the family moved to Sunny Brae, where Kenneth attended school and learning the trade of saddler at a local harness shop operated by his second cousin, Thomas M. Chisholm. After the outbreak of the First World War, Kenneth enlisted with the 78th Highland Regiment (Pictou Highlanders), a local militia regiment, and was part of a detachment assigned to guard the trans-Atlantic cable facilities at Canso, Guysborough County.
Private John Kenneth MacDonald.
Kenneth subsequently journeyed to Sussex, NB in late September 1915, spending one month training with the 64th Battalion (Maritime Provinces). He did not attest for overseas service with the unit at the time, instead returning to Sunny Brae, where he married Christina “Christy” Bousfield on January 20, 1916. Less than two weeks later, he travelled to Halifax and attested for overseas service with the 64th Battalion on February 1, 1916.

The 64th was dissolved shortly after arriving in England. Kenneth was subsequently transferred to the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia) and arrived at his new unit’s camp in Belgium’s Ypres Salient on July 13, 1916. He entered the trenches near Vierstraat, Belgium for his first “tour” on the night of July 23/24.

Tragically, Kenneth’s time in the line was brief. On July 30, 1916 he was killed in action, his “circumstances of casualty” card describing the incident: “While on duty at a listening post[,] he was shot through the head by a sniper’s bullet and instantly killed.” Kenneth was laid to rest in Ridgewood Military Cemetery, near Dickebusch, Belgium. His young widow, Christy, never re-married, passing away in the home of her younger sister at New Westminster, BC in 1969.

Pte. John Kenneth MacDonald's final resting place.
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Kenneth’s family background and military service. The book is available for purchase at Bantry Publishing’s website.

Photograph of John Kenneth MacDonald courtesy of his nephew, Clyde F. Macdonald, New Glasgow, NS.

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