William George Archibald MacDonald was born in Cornwall, Ontario, on 29 July 1923. Bill entered the Royal Military College 2778 in the summer of 1940 as the youngest member of the last entry class before the college closed for the duration of WW II. Known to his classmates as “Slack Mac”, Bill was actively involved in all aspects of college life and a tenacious participant in all sporting activities.
Commissioned on 10 July 1942, before his nineteenth birthday, Bill proceeded to Petawawa where he joined the newly minted 23rd Field Regiment (SP) R.C.A. as the unit trained for overseas duty. The Regiment saw action during the Northwest Europe campaign right through to the liberation of Holland and cease-fire in May 1945.
On 1 October 1946 then Lieutenant MacDonald transferred to the post-war Canadian Army (Regular) as a member of 1 RCHA in Shilo, Manitoba. During the Korean War, while supporting the Royal 22nd Regiment, Bill was badly burned when a heater exploded in a bunker. The injuries resulted in his being medically evacuated from the theatre of war.
Post-Korea Bill trained as a pilot (LAPC 19 graduating May 57) and joined the ranks of Air OP, the “Flying Gunners”. He was notably involved in several “adventures” during his flying days including an unplanned night landing in Petawawa with runway lighting being provided by automobile headlights. Another escapade involved an unscheduled (?) landing in his home town of Cornwall after several low-level passes over the old homestead.
In December 1958 then Captain W.G.A MacDonald was retired from the Canadian Army (Regular) on medical grounds. Despite the best medical care available at the time, multiple skin grafts and a lengthy convalescence, the injuries suffered in Korea would plague him for the rest of his life. On retirement he returned to Cornwall where he lived until he passed away of complications from pneumonia on March 21st, 1997.
Bill’s military career was a continuation of a proud military heritage in the MacDonald family. His grandfather, Captain A.J. MacDonald, served in the American Army from 1842-1867. Commissioned to 2nd Lt. in the Union Army in 1862 he was later that year promoted to 1st Lt. at the battle of Fredericksburg. The promotion commission bears the signature of Abraham Lincoln and is a treasured family artifact. Further promotion to Captain in the Artillery came as the result of gallantry at the battle of Salma Heights and in all he served with distinction in 15 significant Civil War battles, including Gettysburg. He remained on active military duty until 1867 at which time he returned to Canada and settled on what is still the MacDonald family property near Cornwall.
In his own immediate family five of Bill’s seven siblings saw service during WW II. He and two of his brothers saw wartime action with the Canadian Army while another brother sailed with the Canadian Navy in the North Atlantic campaigns. His two sisters served in Canada; one in the Army and one in the Air Force. Of the subsequent generation his nephew, 7761 Colonel M.M. Johnson, RRMC/RMC 69, served for thirty years as a member of Royal Canadian Signals and the Communications and Electronics Branch.