William Macdonald

Corporal (Piper) William Macdonald, died of wounds as a Prisoner of War, 3 October 1914, Döberitz, Germany. He was aged 23.

Born in Rogart to parents John Macdonald (a shoemaker) and Margaret née Mackay of Balchlaggan, Rogart. His home, when he enlisted, was given as Balchlaggan.

In civilian life, before joining up, William Macdonald had been employed by Mr Argo, solicitor, of Golspie. Having ambitions to become a soldier he enlisted at Bonar Bridge in 1911 as a regular soldier and served in 2nd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders. His Regimental Number was 607.

He arrived in France in August 1914, and was wounded very shortly afterwards on 26 August 1914 at Mons, Belgium. He was taken prisoner and taken to Germany and the Döberitz POW Camp, west of Berlin.

Mons was the first major action of the British Expeditionary Force in the First World War and it is said that William was the first battle casualty from the parish of Rogart. The Unit War Diary, written up on the day William was captured, describes the incident.

“26 August 1914, Haucourt. About 4:30pm three French cavalry divisions came in touch with us on our left. About 6pm the Battalion was ordered to retire by way of the valley between Caullery & Selvigny on Sorval Chateau, where the Brigade was to assemble. This was carried out under a very heavy shrapnel fire over ground already ranged upon by the enemy’s artillery.

“This was practically the first time the Battalion had really been under heavy fire, and the movement was accomplished in perfect order and with great steadiness. Casualties:- one officer (Capt KDM MacLachlan) & 20 men wounded.”

Because the stretcher bearers had been reassigned to headquarters they were unable to move the most seriously wounded and seven men were left behind to the care of the Germans. William was one of those seven men.

News of William’s fate was reported in The Northern Chronicle of 11 November 1914, some months after his death.

He was awarded the 1914 Star, Victory Medal and War Medal.

‘Great War Trio’

William was buried in Berlin South Western Cemetery, Stahnsdorf, Germany and commemorated on the Rogart War Memorial and recorded in the Clan Donald Roll of Honour Book.

Berlin South Western Cemetery, Stahnsdorf

William Macdonald was the uncle of our historian, John Macdonald.

Grateful thanks to The Scottish Military Research Group – Commemorations Project for information on this page. Clipping from Northern Chronicle published on 11 November 1914, courtesy of AmBaile. Photograph of William’s grave, thanks to Gary Mackay.