Alexander Macdonald

Information about birth

Year of birth:
Place of birth:
Manchester, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom

General information

butcher, meat and cattle salesman

Army information

England, United Kingdom
British Expeditionary Force
Company Sergeant Major
Service number:
Enlistment place:
Liverpool, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
 —  King's (Liverpool Regiment), 1/10th Bn. (Scottish)  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Elms Corner, Langemark, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Tyne Cot Memorial
Panel: 31

Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 3

#1 Place of birth
#2 Enlistment place
#3 ‘Place of death’

My story

Alexander Macdonald, a former butcher, meat and cattle salesman, was born in 1876 in Manchester, England. He was the son of Robert Maxwell and Alma Wrenn. In 1898 he married Margaret Corless and had five children by 1911. Before the war Macdonald was associated with the Birkenhead Lairage and Liverpool Abattoir. By the time of this death, he had served the Liverpool Scottish in the Territorial Force for nineteen years. He instructed new recruits from the outbreak of war until May 1916, when he joined the army at the front. Alexander Macdonald served as a Company Serjeant Major in the 1/10th Battalion The King's (Liverpool Regiment), part of the 166th Brigade, of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division.

On September 20th, 1917, the 55th Division took part in the Battle of the Menin Road. They planned to attack with 164th and 165th Brigades, keeping the 166th Brigade in reserve. They had to reinforce the assaulting brigades and secure the final objective: Hill 37. At 5:40 a.m. the 164th and 165th Brigades attacked and were able to capture the hill. The 1/10th Battalion The King's stayed in reserve with the 166th Brigade until 11:30 a.m. At that time orders were given for the battalion to be ready to move at 15 minutes notice. From this point on the 1/10th Battalion split up. Two companies were attached to the 164th Brigade and at 2 p.m. they took up positions on the old German front line between Somme and Fort Hill. Later, at 4 p.m., one company moved to the ‘Somme’ – ‘Dont Trench’ line, while the other dug in at Fortuin. Two platoons of this company dug in about 275 metres in front of the jumping off line. They would re-join the 166th Brigade on the 24th of September 1917.

The remaining two companies of the battalion were placed under the orders of the 165th Brigade and at 7.30 p.m. they were ordered to the Hill 37 area as reinforcements. The brigade had secured the hill, but suspected that the Germans would launch a counterattack. Guides from the 9th Battalion The King's took the two companies from Bank Farm, east of Wieltje, to a line of shell holes near of Elms Corner behind Hill 37, arriving around 9.40 p.m. On the morning of September 21st, 1917, a German artillery bombardment hit the 1/10th Battalion at the foot of Hill 37. That evening, at 6 p.m., the Germans shelled the area along the ridge from Hill 37 to Hill 35, signalling a large counterattack on Hill 37. The defenders sent up S.O.S. signals along the whole front. German troops were able to reach the British defences, but shortly after 8 p.m. the attack collapsed. The war diary of the 1/10th Battalion The King's mentions that upon seeing the S.O.S. signal, the two companies moved forward to reinforce the frontline. The situation on the front line remained stable, however, so most of the men returned to Elms Corner. The battalion remained at this location until the 23rd of September, when they were relieved.

Company Serjeant Major Alexander Macdonald, aged 42, was killed on 21 September 1917. A letter from a commanding officer to his widow gives more details about his death. He wrote the following: “We were being heavily shelled at the time and he volunteered to keep a look out for he expected enemy counter-attack. This he was doing when a shell struck him, and he died, as a brave man should, with his face to the enemy, and was buried on the spot where he fell.” This statement makes it likely that Macdonald was among the two companies that reinforced Hill 37 at Elms Corner. Company Serjeant Major Alexander Macdonald has no known grave and is remembered on panel 31 of the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Files 1

Sources 9

Sources used
McCarthy, Chris. Passchendaele: The Day-By-Day Account (Londen: Unicorn Publishing Group, 2017), 76-88.
Sources used
McGilchrist, A.M. The Liverpool Scottish: 1900-1919 (Liverpool: Henry Young & Sons, 1930), 133-138.
Sources used
Newspaper clipping of the Liverpool Post and Mercury (1917)
Sources used
War Diary of the 1/10th The Kings (Liverpool Regiment) - September 1917 - Naval & Military Archive
Further reference
War Diary of the 164th Brigade - September 1917 - Naval & Military Archive
Sources used
War Diary of the 165th Brigade - September 1917 - Naval & Military Archive
Sources used
War Diary of the 166th Brigade - September 1917 - Naval & Military Archive
Sources used
Wyrall, Everard. The history of the King's Regiment (Liverpool) : 1914-1919, Part III (Londen: Edward Arnold & Co., 1928), 513-521.
Sources used

More information 3