Each soldier tells a story.
A front page headline in the 22 January 1917 issue of the Toronto Globe declared: “Popular Officer Killed, Four People Injured, at Toronto Station … Col WC MacDonald Killed by Light Engine … Shocking Accident at Union Station after Departure of Troop Train.”
William Campbell MacDonald was born in 1856. In 1878, he enlisted in the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and was quickly promoted through the ranks. He served during the 1885 Northwest Rebellion and transferred to the 48th Highlanders when that regiment was formed in 1892. During WW1 he was promoted to Colonel and Brigadier for the 1st Canadian Training Brigade, Military District No. 2.
In 1887, he married Catherine Emily Wyld. They had four children.
On the evening of Sunday 21 January 1917, several hundred people had gathered on the platform at Toronto’s Union Station to cheer on 500 departing troops. As the troop train pulled out and onlookers started to leave, another engine backed in, “shrouded in steam, which obliterated the view of those crossing the tracks.” Col MacDonald and Frank Lewarn were pulled underneath the engine. MacDonald was crushed to death. Lewarn and three others were injured. The Globe described MacDonald’s funeral: “probably biggest and most picturesque military cortege in history of Toronto passes through lane of troops.”
The officers of the 1st Infantry Training Brigade placed a plaque in MacDonald’s memory in St James Cathedral, 65 Church St, Toronto.
Sources: The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum and Archives; The Globe, 22 and 24 January 1917.