Gordon Forbes MacQuarrie was born in Port Hastings, Inverness County, NS, on January 18, 1895. He was the son of Allan Malcolm and Florence Blue MacQuarrie. He was actually named William Gordon Forbes MacQuarrie, but went by Gordon and appears to have dropped the William. There is no mention of the first name William in any of the military records.
On April 17, 1916, Gordon joined the 193rd Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) who were based out of Truro, NS. His rank was private and he was assigned service number 902374. At the time, he was single, lived in New Glasgow, and worked as a labourer fabricating artillery shells at the Nova Scotia Steel Company in Pictou County. Shortly after enlisting, Gordon relocated with his unit to Aldershot, NS, where they joined their sister battalions, the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), the 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and the 219th (Overseas Highland Battalion). Together they formed the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. The battalions trained at Aldershot through the summer and fall of 1916. In October, the brigade set sail for England.
On December 29, 1916, after being in England for approximately two months, Gordon was transferred to the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders). They were training at Whitley Camp in England. The following March he was admitted to an isolation hospital in Aldershot, England, for three weeks, when he contracted the mumps.
After the disbandment of the 185th Battalion, Gordon was transferred, as a reinforcement, to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) who were on active duty on the Western Front. Gordon crossed the English Channel on March 1, 1918, and joined his new unit in France.
On the morning of September 2, 1918, the 85th Battalion was involved in a major assault on a section of the Drocourt-Queant Line, a part of the Hindenburg Line of defence. The overall battle became known as the Scarpe Operation named after the Scarpe River. The line consisted of multiple trenches and was heavily defended by the Germans. Contained in the War Diary for the 85th Battalion is the following note addressed to 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade: “Pte. Gordon MacQuarrie, recommended for conspicuous gallantry and bravery during the operations of 2nd September 1918. When No. 1 on the lewis gun was killed he immediately rushed forward, salvaged pans from casualties, took charge of the gun, and carried on well in front of his platoon, causing many casualties to the enemy, and greatly helping in the attack. Signed J.L. Ralston Lieutenant Colonel, Commanding 85th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders.” The note is dated September 9, 1918. Although the battalion took many casualties, the attack was a success. The War Diary doesn’t specify what Gordon what recommended for, presumably a medal, but for unknown reasons, one was not awarded.
Shortly after the battle, the battalion was pulled out of the line for a period of rest and refitting. Reinforcements arrived to replace the many losses and training of the new men began in earnest. Their time out of the line was short lived as they were soon to take part in a general attack on Cambrai and St. Quentin through another section of the Hindenburg Line.
On September 25, 1918, the 85th Battalion marched to a supply station in Arras, France to await a train that would take them closer to the front. Unfortunately, the train was late, so the men were assembled in a shed near the station. At 11:30 pm an enemy aircraft flew over and dropped a bomb which landed amid the congested, unprotected soldiers. One officer and nine men were killed and another officer and 58 men were wounded. It was a terrible tragedy for the men of 85th. Gordon MacQuarrie was one the men who were wounded. He received multiple fractures to his femur in his left leg. He was treated for his wounds and eventually evacuated to No. 8 Stationary Hospital in Wimereux, located on the Channel coast of France. On November 8, 1918, almost seven weeks after being hit, Gordon died as a result of his wounds.
Gordon MacQuarrie was laid to rest in Terlincthun British Cemetery near Boulogne, France. He was 23 years old and held the rank of private.
For additional information on Gordon MacQuarrie, refer to the following two online sources:
I would like to thank Jennifer Collins for providing family information and an electronic copy of a photo of her great great uncle, Gordon MacQuarrie. She obtained a copy of the photo from the Port Hastings Museum in Port Hastings, NS. The photo is contained in Section 1. The second photo in Section 1 and the photo in Section 2 are from my own collection.