Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Bernard McDonald

Bernard McDonald :

Bernard McDonald : 1914-15 Star

1914-15 Star

Bernard was born between October and December 1889 in the Gorton area of Manchester. His father was called John and his mother was Rhoda. He had an older brother called James and 5 younger siblings: John, Janet, Ellen, Margaret and Winifred. The family had lost 2 other children by 1911, but we don't know their names.

John worked as a tailor. In 1891 the family lived at 37 Savoy Street in Gorton. Ten years later they had moved to 12 Hyde Street in nearby Ardwick. They had moved a short distance along this street by 1911, to number 27. As well as John; Rhoda, Bernard, Janet and Ellen now all had jobs. Rhoda was an office cleaner, Janet was an assistant in a sweet shop, Ellen was an errand girl in a factory and Bernard worked for a newsagent.

The First World War broke out in August 1914, and Bernard joined the Army on the 21st December. He left his job as a newsagent and newspaper packer to enlist in the 6th City Battalion. The City Battalions were 'Pals' units that were being formed by the men of Manchester so that they could serve together. The 6th City Battalion became the 21st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Bernard was given the service number 19597 and assigned to I Platoon in A Company. When he enlisted he was 5 feet 3 1/2 inches tall and weighed 113 pounds. He had 'good' physical development and eyesight, but his teeth were 'bad'.

The 21st Battalion trained at Heaton Park in Manchester and then Morecambe in Lancashire. During April 1915 they moved to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire. The battalion moved to Larkhill in Wiltshire that September. They were based here until the 9th November, when they sailed to France.

Early 1916 was spent around Mametz near Fricourt. The battalion took its turn in the front line and took part in raids on the German trenches. During June the battalion began training to take part in the Somme Offensive, which was scheduled to begin on the 1st July.

On the 1st July the 21st Battalion took part in the attack on Mametz. This was successful, but costly. The battalion was not used again until the 14th, when they took part in the Battle of Bazentin Ridge. During this attack Bernard was shot in the right shoulder. After treatment at the 64th Field Ambulance, the 34th Casualty Clearing Station and the 6th General Hospital in Rouen Bernard was sent back to the UK aboard the 'Panama' on the 19th.

We don't know which hospital Bernard was treated in. He recovered well and was discharged on the 14th August. His wound had not 'interfered with movements of arm'. Bernard joined the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, to finish his recovery.

On the 19th October Bernard was transferred to the 69th Training Reserve Battalion at Altcar near Liverpool. The Training Reserve existed to train new recruits and to refresh the training of recovered soldiers such as Bernard before they returned to the front. It is also possible that Bernard was serving there as an instructor. Whatever his role, he appears to have stayed with them until around June 1917.

We don't know exactly when Bernard left the UK. On the 6th July 1917 he boarded a ship in Marseilles, France, and arrived in Salonika in Greece 9 days later. He joined the 2nd Base Depot until he could be assigned to a unit. On the 7th September Bernard was posted to the 2nd Entrenching Battalion. This unit was used as labour for tasks such as digging trenches and other construction work. We believe he was assigned to the 13th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment at some point after this, but we don't know when.

The original aim of sending troops to Salonika was to support the Serbian Army, but it had been defeated before they arrived in October 1915. The force was kept there anyway. Men stationed in Salonika spent most of their time building defensive positions, and did very little major fighting. The main threat they faced was not the Bulgarians or the Austrians but disease. Malaria was rampant, and other diseases would sometimes sweep through the force.

Bernard fell ill on the 17th November. He was admitted to the 28th General Hospital for treatment and discharged to the 2nd Base Depot on the 24th. We don't know what he had been suffering with although at some point during his time in Salonika he had 4 teeth extracted. He rejoined the 13th Battalion on the 5th January 1918.

By mid 1918 the British Army on the Western Front needed reinforcements. It had taken heavy losses during the German Offensive of March 1918, so units from other theatres were sent to France to help bring it up to strength. The 13th Battalion was one of those chosen. It left Salonika in late June.

Bernard arrived in France on the 11th July. After just a week he fell ill with scabies. He was treated in hospital in Abancourt between the 19th and the 23rd July.

There was a great deal of movement of soldiers between units occurring during this time. The 17th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment was absorbed into the 13th Battalion on the 30th July, and then the 13th Battalion itself was absorbed by the 9th Battalion on the 13th August.

After two weeks in his new battalion Bernard returned to the UK on leave. He left on the 31st August and was in the UK until the 14th September. On the 7th he married Elizabeth Broadbent in the Chorlton area. They would make their home at 16 South Street in Ardwick.

Bernard was supposed to return to the 9th Battalion on the 15th, but he arrived one day late. He was 'admonished' by the Battalion's Commanding Officer and had to forfeit 1 day's pay.

By this time the Allies had launched a major offensive on the Western Front. This was extremely successful and began to drive the Germans back. The 9th Battalion fought in the Somme area, and was involved in an operation on the 8th October when Bernard was shot in the chest.

His wound was serious. It seems to have penetrated the base of his left lung and caused it to partially collapse. He was treated at the 1/3rd Northumbrian Field Ambulance, the 20th Casualty Clearing Station and the 12th General Hospital in Rouen before being evacuated to the UK on the 24th.

Bernard was taken to Fusehill War Hospital in Carlisle for treatment. He spent 40 days there before moving to St Michaels Hospital in nearby Brampton. Although he improved with treatment he still struggled to expand his lungs fully, and this was affecting his heart as well. By the 19th December both his lungs 'sounded clear' to his doctors, so he was discharged on leave and returned to Manchester.

Soon after he returned home Bernard's condition worsened. He was admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester, where his general condition was 'not good'. His doctors could hear sounds in his lungs that suggested there were obstructions, and he could not fully inflate them. His heartbeat was recorded as 182 beats per minute, although his doctor could not hear any signs of a murmur.

Bernard was clearly no longer fit for Army service. He was discharged at Hope Hospital in Pendleton, Salford, on the 27th February 1919. We don't believe he ever recovered from his wounds. He died 2 months later on the 29th April. He was 29 years old.

Bernard is buried in Manchester Southern Cemetery. He is commemorated on the First World War Screen Wall along with 803 other men. His grave reference is Q.362.

Bernard's medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in September 2006. As well as his 1914-15 Star, Bernard was also awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council