Monday 30 August 2021

Robert George McDougall

"Their Glory Shall Not Be Blotted Out"
R.G. McDougall, Age 29
The Borden Motor Machine Gun Battery was one of three specialized mobile machine gun units that served as independent fighting units until they were consolidated into the 1st Canadian Mobile Machine Gun Brigade. 

Robert George McDougall, one of 8 children, grew up in the small northern Ontario town of Thessalon in the district of Algoma. He was living in Saskatoon, working as a motorman for the Saskatoon Municipal Railway, when he enlisted  with the 196th Western University Battalion in April 1916. The Battalion, was composed largely of university staff and students from the four western universities, and advertised advantages to "the educated man" who would find themselves among "congenial companions and educative influences throughout his term of service".  

Two months after enlisting, Robert was joined by his brother Edward who had travelled from Winnipeg to Saskatoon to enlist so both men could be together in B Company, the Saskatchewan Company.

The 196th arrived in England in November 1916 and underwent further training, but early in 1917 it was split up and Robert McDougall found himself in Borden's Battery; his experience as a Motorman no doubt a useful trade.  He was Taken on Strength in May, 1917.  His brother was transferred to the 46th Battalion.

Borden's Battery was active throughout the Canadian attack on Passchendaele, regulating fire during the opening phase on October 26th and again in the second and third phases of the battle. On November 10th, thirty minutes after zero hour when the Battery's guns opened fire, the Germans laid down a heavy barrage that lasted until the middle of the afternoon. At 1:30, while he was working in the gun emplacement, Robert was killed by a high explosive shell - 3 other men were killed and 3 more were wounded.

Robert was buried where he was killed - near Bellevue (28, D.4.D.2.3) where the Battery had been in position on the 10th. After the war, a special search was made for his grave but the search area had been obliterated by shell fire and no trace of the grave could be found.  

Serving with the 46th Battalion, Robert's brother was wounded twice during the war, including at Passchendaele, but he survived to return to Canada in 1919 and eventually passed away in Thessalon, Algoma in 1975 at the age of 90.

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