Private, 330, William McDonald (24) – Killed in Action

9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, 31st July 1917 

Gordon Highlanders Cap Badge, similar to the one which would have been worn by William McDonald.

Morayshire Roll of Honour

Extract from the above 1921 publication :- MCDONALD, WILLIAM, No.330, Private, 2nd Gordon Highlanders; born at Grange, Banffshire, 27th September 1892, educated at Knockando; joined at Aberdeen, September 1909; served in France; killed in action, 31st July, 1917. Son of John and Isabella McDonald, Relugas, Dunphail. Occupation – Regular Soldier.

Further Military and Civilian Research

  • William went to France/ Flanders on the 7 October 1914.
  • William McDonald appears to have initially been in the 2nd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders and at an unknown date was transferred to the 9th Battalion.
  • The 9th Battalion Gordon Highlanders was a Pioneer unit, whose roll was to construct and maintain tracks, trenches, lay barbed wire etc.
  • The 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders were involved in offensive operations between 31st to 4th August 1917.
  • Lieutenant-Colonel T.G. Taylor, D.S.O., Commanding Officer of the 9th Gordons, In his Operational Order for the attack gave a ‘General Idea’ of the operation as follows :- The 17th German Division is in front of the 15th Division front from about the MENIN ROAD to about C.29.central, with 2 battalions in Front Line, 2 battalions in the STUTZPUNKT LINE, 2 battalions in the GHELUVELT – LANGEMARCK LINE and 3 battalions in reserve about 1 mile South West of PASSCHENDAELE.  The XIX Corps is assuming the offensive at Zero Hour on ‘Z’ Day, part of an operation having as it’s objective the driving of the enemy behind his defensive lines.
  • The roll of the 9th Gordons in the attack was to lay tracks for artillery and horse transport, lay tracks for a narrow gauge railway.
  • At 6 a.m. (Zero + 2 hours) orders were issued to commence work on both tracks.  Taping parties were sent out immediately to tape out the tracks across “No man’s Land” and as far as the German Reserve Line.  Owing, however, to the severity of the Artillery fire (High Explosive and Gas Shells) during the ‘preparatory period the Tracks up to CAMBRIDGE ROAD were each in a very bad state and not finished.
  • The track across No Man’s Land was completed as far as possible later in the afternoon. Due to the severe enemy artillery fire at the end of the 31st July, 2 Other Ranks were killed, 1 Officer and 28 Other Ranks were wounded.
  • It is very likely that William McDonald was killed in this enemy artillery fire.
  • He was later buried at the Menin Road South Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Gordon Highlanders, repairing a road; near Hamel, on the Somme Front, September 1916. – © IWM Q 1493


William McDonald was born at Grange, Banffshire, 27th September 1892. The following family information is taken from the 1901 Census and ‘Lives of the First World War website. At the time of the 1901 Census, the family were residing at 28 Conval Street, Dufftown.

His family is shown as follows :-

  • Father – John McDonald, born c.1858 at Cromdale, Elginshire – Joiner.
  • Mother – Gabella Glass or McDonald, born c.1864 at Mortlach, Dufftown.
  • Sister – Annie Jane, born 10 April 1884 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire – Nurse (Domestic).
  • Brother- Charles George, born 25 September 1885 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire.
  • Brother – James Alexander, born 18 March 1887 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Isabella McDonald or Shand, born 25 October 1890 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire.
  • Brother – George Lobban, born 30 March 1891 at Grange, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Catherine Margaret Sim McDonald or Webster, born 19 November 1895 at Grange, Banffshire.
  • Brother – Malcolm, born 4 March 1897 at Grange, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Alice, born 11 December 1898 at Mortlach, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Helen, born 6 December 1900 at Mortlach, Banffshire.

His brother James Alexander McDonald was killed in action on the 29th July 1916, while fighting in the Australian Imperial Force.

Two men of the 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders (15th Division) with their pet cat. Martinpuich, 25 August 1916. Copyright: © IWM Q 4142.


  • The 1901 Census gives the family address as 28 Conval Street, Dufftown, Banffshire.
  • On his brother James’s initial application, the fathers address is given as Ballentomb Cottage, Dulnain Bridge, Grantown-on-Spey.
  • Later in the war the fathers address is given as Rowan Cottage, Dulnain Bridge, Grantown-on-Spey.
  • The address given to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the family after his death was 50 Balvenie Street, Dufftown, Banffshire.
  • In the Morayshire Roll of Honour from 1921 the address the address of his parents is shown as Relugas, Dunphail Estate, near Forres, Morayshire.
Grave of William McDonald at Menin Road South Cemetery – © Photo with thanks to Carlos Aelvoet.


William McDonald was awarded the 1914 Star and Clasp, Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War.


William McDonald is honoured and remembered on the Glenrinnes and Kirkhill War Memorial along with his two brothers. He is also remembered on the Mortlach and Parishioners War Memorial, Dufftown, Moray along with his brother Malcolm.

Glenrinnes and Kirkhill War Memorial where William McDonald is honoured and remembered – © Vincent Stuart

Links to Additional Information

Conflicting Information

The document, Soldiers Who Died in the Great War has William as being born in Keith, I think this is incorrect and is as previously stated at Glenrinnes, Banffshire. Keith is often referred as the main postal town for the area. It also states that he enlisted in Dufftown. This is possible, the Morayshire Roll of Honour has his place of enlistment as Aberdeen. It cannot be confirmed which is correct without seeing his enlistment papers.


  •  Morayshire Roll of Honour.
  •  Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
  • Medal Index Card.
  • Medal Roll – Gordon Highlanders – Victory and British War Medal.
  • Soldiers Died in the Great War.
  • Register of Soldiers Effects.
  • War Diary of the 9th Gordon Highlanders.
  • Military Pension Card.



  • Vincent Stuart
  • Carlos Aelvoet (Grave Photo)
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