Roll of Honour


William Francis Maxwell Donald

Military Cross


William Francis Maxwell Donald was born on 3rd June 1881, and was the third Son of Colin Dunlop Donald and Ellen Mary Brown Donald. The family resided at 14 Huntly Gardens, Kelvinside. His father had been a partner in the Law firm Grigor Donald and Co., but died in 1896 when William was 15.

Memorial chapel at the University of Glasgow
The Memorial Chapel at the University of Glasgow

William attended Rugby School and then went on to study Civil Engineering at the University, graduating in 1906. His University career was a bit of a struggle. He first matriculated in 1898, and after three years had still not completed all the subjects required, principally Mathematics. He continued to sit exams in each of the next four years before getting his final pass in March 1906, and graduating on the 17th April 1906.

He became assistant in the Civil Engineering Company, Messrs Crouch and Hogg, and continued his studies by enrolling in session 1907-1908 for evening studies at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College (later known as the Royal TechnicalCollege, now the University of Strathclyde). He took two classes: 'Railways and Roads' and 'Foundations and Materials'.

He remained at 14 Huntly Gardens, Kelvinside, and with Messrs Crouch and Hogg, and was with them when in 1914, he enlisted. He had been using his Engineering skills in what we would now term the Territorial Army, prior to the War, and so, when he enlisted, was quickly commissioned, in the Highland Light Infantry, and sent to France , landing at Le Havre on 5th November 1914. His commission had only been confirmed on the previous day, the 4th November. After serving with them for about 18 months he was posted to a staff position, in which capacity he was serving when, in May 1917, he was severely wounded in the hand. It was this action which led to the award of the Military Cross. The citation read:

”for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When Divisional Observing Officer he showed the greatest initiative and disregard of personal safety in crawling out to an exposed position under heavy fire of every description, to obtain information from the company holding the position. Though wounded whilst doing so he successfully returned with the required information”

Once fit again, he held Staff rolls in the UK until May 1918. He then returned to France, initially in a Staff roll, and then in command of a Company of the Highland Light Infantry. He was in charge of that Company when he was killed in action on 19th September 1918, and he is buried in Moeuvres Communal Cemetery Extension in Northern France. He was 37 years old.

Whilst in France, he had written a series of letters home from the front under the sobriquet ‘Uncle Frank’, 44 of which have now been included and interleaved with a general history of his regiment. The letters began on 13th April 1915, and were sent to his brother T.W. Donald and his nephew, Colin.

As well as these letters, and on the University Roll of Honour, he is remembered on Rugby School’s Memorial, the City of Glasgow Roll of Honour, and the Roll of Honour of the Royal Technical College of Glasgow.