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Ernest Frank and Henry Charles McDonald

This story is shared by the Trust with kind permission from Malcolm and Cathy Colman. Ernest and Henry were Cathy's uncles but she did not know much about them as her mother died when she was very young. But during his family history research, Malcolm discovered their connection to the Battle of Normandy.

Ernest Frank McDonald was born near Southampton on 25th October 1916 and his brother, Henry Charles, was born on 24th June 1925, the sons of William McDonald and Elsie May McDonald (née Emmett). Ernest and Frank would have two contrasting service experiences.

Ernest Frank McDonald

Ernest worked as an errand boy until enlisting in the Regular Army on 25th June 1935. He joined the Dorsetshire Regiment as Private No. 5725398.

After training, Ernest was posted to the 2nd Battalion on the 12th January 1936. Later he was posted to the 1st Battalion on the 9th March 1937 and served in India until 1939. The Battalion was then posted to Malta where it manned the defences during the siege of Malta. Once the siege was lifted in 1943 the battalion was posted to Egypt. On the 29th June 1943 the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment embarked on the SS Strathnaver bound for Sicily and the landings on the 10th July 1943. Ernest’s campaign in Sicily lasted until the 5th November 1943 and he then took part in the landings in Italy.

Ernest’s battalion left Italy and returned to the United Kingdom, arriving in Gourock on the Clyde on the evening of 4th November 1943, to prepare for D-Day in Normandy. Ernest Frank had been away from the UK for 8 years 134 days. He went on leave around the 7th November 1943 re-joining shortly after for training for D Day.

The Dorsetshire, Hampshire and Devonshire regiments became part of the Northumbrian division and trained as one. Ernest's last campaign was about to begin. His third and final landing from the 6th June 1944 until his death on the 10th June 1944 near Tilly-sur-Suelles in Normandy, France.

Cathy Colman at Ernest's grave, Tilly-sur-Seulles Cemetery

Ernest Frank McDonald was awarded the General Service Medal and Clasp Palestine, 1939-45 Star, France and Germany, Africa Star, Italy Star and Defence Medal 1939-45. He had served for a total of 8 years 352 days.

Henry Charles McDonald

Henry worked as a Sheet Metal Worker and Labourer. He joined the Home Guard in July 1941 before enlisting in the Territorial Army, Hampshire Regiment, General Service Corps on the 8th March 1943 as Private 14425166 aged 17 years 8 months.

Henry was sent to the 66 Primary Training Unit on the 15th April 1943. After training he was assigned to the Hampshire Regiment on the 27th May 1943 but was in detention for some reason (this has been redacted from his records) until re-joining the 7th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment on the 24th March 1944.

On the 19th June 1944 the 7th Battalion went to Normandy, France. Henry Charles was reported missing, killed in action on the 10th July 1944. He was awarded the 1939-45 Star, France and Germany and War Medal 1939-45. He had served for a total of 1 year and 125 days.

Henry Charles McDonald has no known grave and nobody knew where he was killed. He is commemorated on two memorials, one in Bayeux and also at the British Normandy Memorial, Ver-sur-Mer France.

Whilst visiting the British Normandy Memorial on the 10th June 2023 my wife and I were looking at the plaques on the benches that face the memorial. I was looking on the front of the benches, my wife was looking on both sides. I commented that one bench did not have any plaques on. She then told me there were some on the rear. I went around the back of the bench I was looking at only to find a plaque that said
“Remembering with Pride, 7th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment, 4th Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment, 5th Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment which as 130 Brigade attacked the eastern shoulder of Hill 112 on 10th July 1944.”

Operation Jupiter was a fierce battle fought on the 10th and 11th July 1944. The 43rd (Wessex) Brigade, which included the three battalions named above, fought on the eastern side of Hill 112 reaching Evrecy and then Maltot on the 10th July 1944. There was fierce resistance from a battalion of Tiger tanks  of the 102nd SS Panzer-Abtielung) accompanied by SS Grenadiers.

My wife and I believe Henry Charles McDonald was killed in the fight for Maltot. We have since visited Maltot (we visit Hill 112 regularly as we drive to our cottage) and now at least have an idea where Henry Charles was killed all thanks to a small plaque on a bench at the British Normandy Memorial that I nearly missed!

FALLEN HEROES

  • ERNEST FRANK MCDONALD

    Army • PRIVATE

    Dorsetshire Regiment
    1st Battalion

    DIED 10 June 1944

    AGE 27

    SERVICE NO. 5725398

  • HENRY CHARLES MCDONALD

    Army • PRIVATE

    Hampshire Regiment
    7th Battalion

    DIED 10 July 1944

    AGE 19

    SERVICE NO. 14425166

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