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Lt.-Col. Thain W. MacDowell

LT.-COL. Thain W. MacDowell VC, DSO (Inducted 2003)

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Thain MacDowell attended BCI in the early 1900’s. He was one of four brothers raised in Maitland, all of whom served overseas in the First World War. He played a major role in the Battle of Vimy Ridge and was decorated for his conspicuous bravery there. An avid sportsman, Thain went on to the University of Toronto where he played varsity hockey and football, graduating U of T in 1915.

Captain Thain Wendell MacDowell, who enlisted as lieutenant in the 38th Canadian Battalion in 1915, established a reputation for courage and swift decisions, in November of 1916, when he won the Distinguished Service Order in the Battle of the Somme. Thain was honoured for his courage at the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917, when he, almost single-handedly captured two German machine guns and took a deep dugout held by 77 Prussian soldiers. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, The British Empire’s highest award for valor. Four Canadian men won the Victoria Cross that day at Vimy Ridge; Thain was the only one to survive the war. The battle of Vimy Ridge went into the history books and, to this day, is considered a defining moment of Canada as a nation. Returning home from WWI an illustrious hero, Thain was honoured by the U of T with an Honorary Masters Degree and recognized as being the member of the university who had won the highest military honour and represented all those who had served in the war. His Victoria Cross medal now rests in the University of Toronto archives.

Thain died suddenly in 1960 in the Bahamas at the age of 69 and was buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Brockville with military honors. A permanent plaque to preserve the memory of heroic efforts in battle was posted by the Canadian Government Archives in 1970 at Maitland near Highway 2 about 200 yards from where he grew up.

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