Canada in the Second World War

People

John Archibald MacNaughton

John Archibald MacNaughton was born in Black River Bridge, New Brunswick in October 1896. He had two sisters, Katie and Annie.

 

Archie, as he was called by all who knew him, enlisted in the First World War in November 1915. He served with the 104thand 236thbattalions as a Private, and was discharged in 1919 after fighting in France and Belgium.  He returned home to Black River Bridge, where he would marry Grace, raise two children (Francis and Margie), and farm his own land. Archie was an active member of his community, and well loved by all who knew him. He taught Sunday School and was a devout Christian.

Archie attended annual summer training camps with the North Shore New Brunswick Regiment, rising in the ranks and esteem of his men. In 1939, he enlisted in the Second World War at the age of 42, quick to do his duty for his country and his men. By September 1940, he had earned the rank of Major. In 1942, he received the Extended Service Award.

Archie spent time in Woodstock and Camp Sussex before returning to Europe a second time in August 1941. He underwent extensive training with his men, taking special pride to make sure they were always the best appearing in parades.

Due to his age and rank, Archie was offered the opportunity to retire prior to D-Day or to return to the relative safety of Canada in a training role. He refused. He saw no option but to lead his men ashore. They saw him as a father and he saw them as brothers and sons. Two days before the invasion, on June 4, he wrote to his wife, “Don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for some time…This has been a busy time, but I am awful glad I was in it. No matter how things go.”

On June 6, 1944, despite being shot through the hand during the initial landings, Archie pushed on, leading “A” Company to their objectives. They encountered unexpected German resistance in Tailleville. Of 800 men involved, there were 125 casualties, including 34 deaths. The only North Shore New Brunswick officer to lose his life in the battle was Major John Archibald MacNaughton, taken down as he tried to lead his men out of the line of fire. He is buried at the Bény-sur-mer Canadian War Cemetery. His loss continues to be felt today.

 

Archie (far right) with soldiers of “A” Compagny, The North Shore (New-Brunswick) Regiment. Archie was loved and respected by the men he led. He took great pride in ensuring that his beloved “A” Company always came out on top during training exercises and sports activities.

 

 

The MacNaughton Family during the late 1930s.

 

Last letter Archie sent home :
June 4th 1944
Dear Grace,
Don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for some time… This has been a busy time, but I am awful glad I was in it. No matter how things go.
Grace, life has been very kind to us… I hope we can be together again…
I can’t advice you about the future, my dear, because life has too many problems…
I would love to see you all now… I am feeling rather lonely tonight and I know what is ahead… I will tell you someday where I wrote this letter.
All my love to you, and may God take care of you all.

 

Major John Archibald MacNaughton’s military medals

From left to right
First World War
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Second World War
1939-1945 Star
France-Germany Star
Defence Medal
Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, with Overseas Clasp
War Medal 1939-1945, with Oak Keaf (Mentionned in Dispatches)
Canadian Efficiency Decoration

 

“Archie was the biggest and noblest character I met during the war. He was a legend within the regiment” Major Raymond M. Hickey, Chaplain of the North Shore (New-Brunswick) Regiment.

Archie’s funeral at the Bény-Reviers cemetery, Summer of 1944.

Grace visiting her husband’s grave at the Canadian military cemetery at Bény-Reviers, in 1963, wearing her Memorial Cross.

Credits and acknowledgements: MacNaughton Family