The First World War
Soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers
of The Royal Canadian Regiment


440029 Private Douglas McCall

By: Captain Michael M. O'Leary, The RCR

The silver Memorial Cross sent to Private Douglas McCall's mother after his death.

The silver Memorial Cross sent to Private Douglas McCall's mother after his death.

Douglas McCall was born at Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, on19 Dec 1887.

On 21 Dec 1914, at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, McCall enlisted with the 53rd Canadian Infantry Battalion for overseas service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. A 28 year old farmer, he was described on his attestation form as 5 feet 7 1/2 inches in height, 150 pounds, with a dark complexion, grey eyes and black hair. He was a Presbyterian and had no prior military service.

McCall did not proceed overseas for some time. It was not until June 1915 that his attestation paper received the Commanding Officer's certification. On 26 Jan 1916, he was still in Canada and  was admitted to the Winnipeg General Hospital with measles. A week later, on 3 Feb 1916, McCall was discharged and transferred to the King George Hospital.

Fifteen months after enlisting, on 29 Mar 1916, Douglas McCall finally sailed for Europe. He left Halifax aboard the S.S. Empress of Britain, a Canadian Pacific liner that had been in trans-Atlantic service since 1905 and saw service during the War as an armed merchant cruiser and as a troop carrier. On the 9th of April, McCall disembarked in England.

While in England, Douglas McCall completed the will form from his soldier's Pay Book on 6 Jun 1916, in which he stated:

“In the event of my death I give whole of my property to my Brother, Pte John McCall, No. 440413, 53 Batt O.S.B. In the event of his death I leave the whole of my property to my brother, Sam McCall, Allan P.O. Sask.' Canada.” (sic)

A few days after completing his will, Douglas McCall joined a draft of soldiers and crossed the Channel to France. He arrived in France on 8 Jun 1916 as a reinforcement for The RCR, being transferred from the Infantry Pool. The next day, McCall was taken on the strength of The RCR in the field. The Regiment's Part II Daily Orders show that a total of 195 soldiers were taken on strength on the 8th of June from the 45th, 59th and 61st Reserve Battalions and from the Infantry Pool. Despite the size of the draft joining on 8 Jun, these were not the only reinforcement taken on strength that month to replace recent losses. The War Diary describes the arrival of these new soldiers, noting that 80 reinforcements arrived on 9 Jun to join the Regiment at Steenvoorde, 119 more reported for duty the following day and another 81 arrived on the 11th of June.

Douglas McCall would serve in and out of the trenches for over two months before leaving the unit. On 18 Aug 1916 he was admitted to No. 1 Convalescent Depot, Boulogne, while the Regiment was in the front lines in the Ypres Salient conducting raiding operations. The reason for McCall's hospitalization at No. 30 General Hospital, was not a result of combat. His records note that on 13 Oct 1916, his date of discharge from hospital, he was subjected to “Hospital Stoppages” for which he “Forfeit[ed] Field Allowance and [was] placed under stoppage of pay at the rate of 50 cents per diem from 21 Aug 1916 to 13 Oct 1916 (54 days).” Hospital stoppages were awarded when a soldier was placed in hospital for treatment of venereal disease. The stoppages were half of a private soldier's rate of pay, plus his field allowance, and constituted a mandated penalty for having made himself unfit for service. The stoppages were not unlike having the usual punishment for Absence Without Leave include a man's pay for the duration of his absence.

McCall returned to the Regiment from hospital and remained with the unit through the late fall and early winter of 1916/17. The RCR was in the trenches during the first weeks of February 1917 when Douglas McCall's war would come to an end. “A” Company was the target of an enemy raid, one which was initiated by the explosion of a mine under an existing battlefield crater; Chassery Crater. The War Diary provides the following details for the 10th and 11th of February 1917:

10.2.17. - TRENCHES

Cold, partly Cloudy, Very heavy Mist for about an hour and a half after sunset. - Enemy Artillery and T.M's continue active but we are more so.

Enemy blew a mine under CHASSERY CRATER about 7.30 P.M. Our lip was shifted back about 10 feet, and our post buried. Without opposition we seized and consolidated our new lip, excellent work being done by all ranks. At about the same time, under cover of a heavy barrage, and the mist about 25 of the enemy attempted to raid "A" Co. front, trying to enter in two parties, one by disused Sap to south of B.4., and one overland against our post. The raiding party was seen and bombed. They retired immediately. A patrol was at once sent out to try and obtain identification, but enemy had removed all casualties.

During the remainder of the night everything was very quiet. Our patrols were active.

Some officers (including the C.O.) of the 24th V.R.C. went over our lines today.

11.2.17. - TRENCHES

Cloudy, still Cold. - About 9.30 A.M. about 50 of the enemy attempted to raid our line opposite CHASSERY CRATER. They were seen dividing into two parties in their Saps. Artillery (18 pdrs. and 4.5's) were immediately turned on them and they dispersed. Horns and whistles were heard blowing in enemy lines for some time afterwards. It is thought heavy casualties were inflicted. The remainder of the day was, comparatively speaking, quiet.

Advance parties from 24th Bn. V.R.C. reported tonight.

4 O.R. Wounded.

McCall was one of the soldiers in the crater lip post buried by the mine explosion on 10 Feb 1917. He was transported to No. 42 Casualty Clearing Station, suffering from gun shot wounds of the back and left leg. (“Gun shot wounds” was a generic term for the injuries caused by any high-velocity projectiles, including shrapnel.) With his condition described as “dangerously ill,” Douglas McCall died of his wounds on 19 Feb 1917 at No. 42 C.C.S. The Particulars of Death form held by the Library and Archives Canada reads:

“Died of Wounds”

“On the 10th of February while on duty at a crater post he was wounded in the left side and back by the explosion of a small enemy mine, and buried in the debris. He was dug out quickly and received first aid, after which he was taken to a Field Ambulance and evacuated to No. 42 Casualty Clearing Station where he succumbed to his wounds, nine days later.”

McCall is buried at Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension; 2 miles East of Berles and 9 miles North West of Arras, France.

The medals awarded to Douglas McCall for his services were the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These were mailed to his family on 11 Aug 1920. His Memorial Cross, Memorial Plaque and Scroll were all sent to his mother between 1920 and 1922.
The silver Memorial Cross sent to Private Douglas McCall's mother after his death.

The silver Memorial Cross sent to Private Douglas McCall's mother after his death.

Pro Patria

Follow The Regimental Rogue on facebook.