As part of the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize, recipients are tasked with researching the life of a Canadian soldier, usually of those listed on the Vimy Memorial, with no known grave. Zoe McDaniel, as a 2016 BVP recipient, researched Corporal Alexander John McDougall. Here is his story, as told by Zoe:
Alex was born August 10th, 1895 in West Lake Ainslie, Nova Scotia, to his parents John R McDougall and Annie MacLellan. He spoke Gaelic and worked as a clerk at his family’s store, remaining unmarried, most likely still living with his parents.
He enlisted in Halifax, Nova Scotia on the 12th of November 1915 at age 20 with the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). His unit sailed October 12th, 1916, and eight days later he arrived in Liverpool. McDougall’s battalion is perhaps most famous for their capture of Hill 145. Alex was killed in this action at the age of 22 years old, on April 12th, 1917, the final day of the battle of Vimy Ridge – while attempting to secure Hill 145. Alex is buried in La Chaudière Military Cemetery, Vimy, France although he was originally buried atop Hill 145, where the Vimy Memorial now stands.
I chose to research him in my original application for the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize — highlighting the contributions of the Gaelic-speaking community — and then continued my research for the Bringing the Boys Home component of the BVP trip. I originally felt connected to Alex because he was from my home town, and at the time of the First World War, he was not much older than I am now. The connection I gained with a soldier who lived 10 minutes from me and who died 100 years ago, astounds me. Being able to bring a piece of his home to his final resting place was incredibly important to me as it felt like we both finally had closure. I remember Alex and his sacrifice every day.