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Harold S. MacDonald was an officer with the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment from June 1942 until the end of the Second World War in Europe. Throughout this period he penned a steady stream of letters to his bestfriend, his wife, Marjorie, who was then a newspaper reporter with the Saint John Evening Times-Globe. These letters, totalling 463, were carefully preserved by Marjorie and provide a continuous and absorbing account of the experiences of a front-line Canadian infantry officer in Northwest Europe during the Second World War. They begin in June 1942 with a description of the rowdy voyage on the troopship carrying him and his regiment to England, and go on to provide vivid portrayals of his experiences of life in wartime Great Britain and of numerous training exercises in which he participated. For the most part, however, they are concerned with his fraught and demanding responsibilities on the battlefields of continental Europe.
Hal MacDonald was born in Saint John on 15 February 1917. A graduate of the Modern Business College in Saint John, he was working with the accounting department of T. McAvity and Sons, in Saint John, when the Second World War broke out in September 1939. He enlisted that year as a private, and progressed through non-commisioned ranks to officer training at Brockville in the fall of 1941. In June 1942 he was posted to the North Shore Regiment and remained with that unit until the end of the war. In action, he served successively as second-in-command of “D” Company, commander of the Carrier Platoon, commander of the Support Company, and then as adjutant.
At war's end he was the North Shores’ liaison officer with the 8th Brigade, of which the regiment formed a part. Upon his return to Canada and demobilization in 1945, MacDonald joined Colonel Charles Leonard in the century-old Saint John firm of manufacturers’ agents and food brokers, which in due course became Leonard and MacDonald Ltd. His many activities and interests included the New Brunswick presidency of the Canadian Red Cross from 1964 to 1967, and also the presidency of the Canadian Food Wholesalers from 1977 to 1978. He was killed in an automobile accident on 11 November 1984, leaving his wife, a son and a daughter.
The letters presented in the following narrative cover the period from MacDonald’s landing in France in late June 1944 until the end of the campaign in Normandy in the third week of August. They constitute an invaluable source of information about that campaign from the point of view of an observant and articulate front-line participant and tell us much about such important subjects as battle stess and exhaustion, the conditions under which soldiers lived and died, morale, the debilitating effects of friendly fire and the daily grind of attrition warfare. The letters are presented here to stimulate interest in the collection as a whole, which almost certainly merits publication in its entirety.
MacDonald, Harold and MacDonald, M.A. "In the Heat of Battle: Letters from the Normandy Campaign." Canadian Military History 11, 2 (2002)