The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Regimental #:
- ‘D’ Company, No. 15 Platoon
- Place of Birth:
- Sunderland, England
- Father's Name:
- John MacDonald
- Mothers's Name:
- Hannah MacDonald/Diggle
- Roman Catholic
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Truck Driver
- Epitaph, Singapore Memorial, Column 136, Age 29.
- Cause of Death:
- Missing believed killed in action
- Place of Death:
- Near Ama Keng Village
- Date of Death:
MacDonald’s family were not notified of his death until after the war.
John MacDonald with WX9393 Lt. John Meiklejohn, CO of No. 15 Platoon, D Company, WX7127 Sgt John Solly, Platoon Sgt and others were missing the night of 8 February – they were reported KIA fighting their way out from the west coast of Singapore during early morning. MacDonald was KIA near Ama Keng village on 9 February 1942. Meiklejohn and Solly were also KIA. Others from ‘D’ company KIA on 9 February 1942 included Lindsay Murray WX9279.
John was born Sunderland, England the second child to parents John MacDonald (Snr) and Hannah MacDonald. John had an older brother Malcolm born in March 1910 and sister Florence born October 1914.
John McDonald Snr (different spelling) enlisted WW1 joining Durham 19th Battalion Light Infantry. This was in fact a Bantam Battalion – the British Army had a minimum height intake of 5’3″.
There were large numbers of men under 5’3″ who volunteered. The numbers overwhelmed the recruiting centres. One of these men was John McDonald who was 5’2″. (John MacDonald Jnr was 5’3″). Thousands of would-enlistments were turned away. Firstly Britain had too many men wishing to enlist, resulting in an introduction of a height restriction to deter numbers. In September 1914, the army had introduced a height restriction from 5’3″ to 5’6″. The numbers of would-be enlistments dropped; the height was lowered to 5’4″ by October 1914 and then to 5’3″ by November1914.
By July 1915 the minimum height was 5’2″.
Basically it was never envisaged the war would last as long as it did. England realised they needed more men. The slaughter of soldiers in France was horrendous – but the incompetency of leading British officers was worse. WW1 exposed class war at its worse. It didn’t seem to matter how many soldiers were killed in battle on any one day, because those in charge believed they could call on more numbers of soldiers to take their places anytime and anywhere. For Germany it was much the same! The deaths of ‘foot soldiers’ was done by numbers, not names.
Initially the War Office accepted 3,000 men who had previously been barred from enlistment, forming two Birkenhead Bantam Battalions. John MacDonald Snr enlisted.
At the end of WW1, 29 Bantam battalions had been formed across three divisions, two British and one Canadian. With about 1,000 men each battalion and including replacements this figure is estimated at a total of roughly 30,000 Bantam Soldiers.
Volunteer John MacDonald, had been fighting in France for 12 months when ‘a small incident’ on the Front resulted in catastrophic consequences.
McDonald Snr’s headstone, France.
McDonald was sentenced to death by a firing squad with two other soldiers for leaving their post. (further research shows this in fact was not the case-they were about to be overrun by the Germans). In short McDonald and the others were made an example of by the short-sighted British senior army officers who had very little regard for those dying on the front. McDonald was a volunteer, had been fighting in France for 12 months, he is hardly likely to run! Although provided legal representation at the sentencing court, it was quite unjust and even today in 2018, proceedings continue to clear these and other British soldiers of their so-called ‘crime’.
Worse was to follow for the families of these soldiers. It was obviously recorded in the press with deliberate intention by the Army, the men were not awarded any medals, and initially the wives/families were not provided a widow benefit. The McDonald family had three children!
Sept 2019 – we apologise, this page is under construction and research in progress.