It is November 1916, and the chaos and carnage of the First World War rage in Europe on the Western Front. Among the many nationalities fighting in this global conflict is a Canadian, Captain Thain MacDowell. It’s the Battle of the Somme, and he leads his men in an assault on a strongly defended German trench. Three machine gun posts spit a deadly hail of lead at the attackers. Things look dire for the Canadians.
We’ll come back to that Canadian battalion pinned down by German machine gun fire, and we’ll find out what happened to them. But first let’s learn some more about MacDowell and how this Canadian national ended up in France with hostile Germans trying to kill him. After all, it was a long way from the tranquil beauty of Canada to the killing fields of Europe.
Thain Wendell MacDowell was born in September 1890 in Lachute, a town of lumber yards and paper mills in the Canadian province of Quebec. His father was a Methodist minister, who died in 1894 while MacDowell was still an infant. His mother remarried, and he and his three brothers and one sister moved to the hamlet of Maitland, Ontario in 1900.