Remembering Donald MacEachern

Donald MacEachern was the son of Norman Angus MacEachern and the brother of Kenneth MacEachern (my grandfather). Donald fought in the Battle of the Falaise Gap (also known as the Falaise Pocket) during August 1944 as part of the Second World War. He was injured when his tank was destroyed and he was briefly taken prisoner by Nazi soldiers.

The descriptions of the fighting and the aftermath are gruesome. Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said this:

The battlefield at Falaise was unquestionably one of the greatest “killing fields” of any of the war areas. Forty-eight hours after the closing of the gap I was conducted through it on foot, to encounter scenes that could be described only by Dante. It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh.

Below is an article originally from the January 10, 1945 issue of Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser. I was unable to find the original digital archive version of the article but it is available on the RMC Club website.

Not worth taking prisoner

2780 Don McEachern (RMC ‘1940)

January 10, 1945 – Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser

Wounded in the right leg when his tank exploded just at the end of fighting to close the Falaise Gap in August 1944, Lt. Don MacEachern, son of Mr. and Mrs. N. MacEachern of Wetaskiwin, returned to the city Monday night.

In command of three tanks when he was wounded Lt. MacEachern told The Times, “I was a prisoner for five or six hours. After I was wounded I was taken prisoner but they didn’t think I was worth carrying away so they left me. Two of my men were killed and another fellow and I were wounded. The rest were taken prisoner. After they marched away two men of the same regiment came along, typical Nazis. One, in a mixture of French, German and English told me I was crazy to come all the way from Canada to fight against the glorious Third Reich.”

The soldiers his unit was fighting when he received his wound were men of the S.S. guards whom Lt. MacEachern considers much superior to the rest of the German Army.

Don MacEachern was born in Wetaskiwin 23 years ago. His father, Norman MacEachern won the D.S.O. and bar in the last war. Don was an active member of the High School Track Team and helped organize the Students’ Union.

He entered the Royal Military College at Kingston the first of September, 1940, leaving it a year later to join the active army. While in Kingston, he won the Silver Bugle for the highest individual points in the track meet as well as two silver cups, two silver medals and two bronze ones.

He took an officer training course at Brockville and Camp Borden being commissioned in February, 1942, in the Canadian Armored Corps.

He was gazetted to the B.C. Regiment and went overseas in September, 1942. After a period of two years in England, he went to France in July of last year, 56 days after D-Day. Asked how the fighting was in France, he said, “Okay,” and added nonchalantly, “I guess it was just like all the fights.”

He was wounded on August 23 and was flown across the channel to a Canadian hospital in England. After three and a half months in hospital he was returned to Canada.

He is now on 30 days leave pending discharge.

He plans to stay in Wetaskiwin.

A younger brother Kenneth received his wings and commission in the R.C.A.F. at the end of last year on his 20th birthday.

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