John Donald McPherson

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada

General information

Last known residence:
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Army information

Canadian Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
 —  Canadian Infantry, 46th Bn. (South Saskatchewan)  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Heine House, Passchendaele, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Points of interest 4

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Enlistment place
#4 Place of death (approximate)

My story

John Donald McPherson was born on a farm in Spruce Grove, Alberta, a small town west of Edmonton. His father, John Allen McPherson, was a wealthy farmer and a member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly for the Stony Plain constituency for the Alberta Liberal party from 1905 to 1913. John Donald received his early education at Spruce Grove and was a member of the first agricultural class of the College of Agriculture at Vermilion in 1913, earning his agricultural degree in the spring of 1915. When the College of Agriculture was established at the University of Alberta, he became a member of the first class of 12 students. In the spring of 1916, he enlisted. After completing his training, he was taken on by the 46th Battalion (South Saskatchewan), part of the 10th Brigade of the 4th Canadian Division.

In October 1917, the 46th was engaged at Passchendaele. They attacked on 26 October 1917 at first dawn, the guns belched out their deadly load. As the defenders retreated to their shelters, the Canadians advanced, trying to reach higher and dryer ground in front of Passchendaele. The Ravebeek scut through the front. Once a shallow moat, endless bombardments had turned the Ravebeek into a kilometre-wide swamp. The 4th Canadian Division operated east of the stream. Advancing through the swampy valley was almost impossible. The division could only attack with one battalion, the 46th Battalion (South Saskatchewan). Only a narrow strip along the Ypres-Roulers railway line and the road to Passchendaele proved dry enough. The front of the battalion was barely 550 metres wide and dominated by at least 10 pillboxes.

German resistance was strong and Canadian losses were heavy. The 46th lost 70% of its men. A German counterattack forced them to retreat under heavy machine-gun fire. In the evening, the battalion was located between Decline Copse on the railway line and the Passchendaele Road, about 500 metres from their point of departure. On relief, 62 men were missing, about one in seven of the 420 boys who went into action. During the advance on passchendaele, William, while in charge of a Lewis rifle section, was hit in the head by shrapnel near the Passchendaele Road. William has no known grave to date and is commemorated at the Menin Gate. When his family was notified, they had moved to Hammond, British Columbia. Since World War I, they scattered across the province and the country. The McPhersons are inextricably linked to the history of the Presbyterian community in Maple Ridge, as in 1927 they donated land on which the historic Hammond Presbyterian Church still stands.

Files 2

Sources 5

Gordana Dimovska, Community Archivist for City of Maple Ridge, personal communication, 17 January 2023.
Sources used
Personnel Records of the First World War (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC) RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 7184 - 29).
Sources used
War diaries: 46th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG9-III-D-3, Volume number: 4939, Microfilm reel number: T-10745, T-10745--T-10746, File number: 437).
Sources used
War Graves Registers: Circumstances of Death (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG 150, 1992-93/314; Volume Number: 223).
Sources used
War Graves Registry: Commonwealth War Graves (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC): RG150, 1992-1993/314, Box 39-244; Box: 105).
Sources used