Lambton at War

Moore Township

The First World War

John H. McLaughlin

 

John H. McLaughlin (Uncle Mac) was born in Lambton County, on the 10th Concession of Moore Township, present day Petrolia Line in St. Clair Township. He served at the front with Lambton’s
149th Battalion.

The unique stories that I would like to share is not what happened post war in Canada after the Great War, but how Uncle Mac’s life unfolded in the United States.  Unfortunately after the war, and returning home wounded after serving in battles on the front, like many others, Uncle Mac could not find employment in Canada so he moved to the United States and landed employment at Ford Motor Corporation in Detroit, Michigan.  He worked under Henry Ford, Edsel Ford, the only son of Henry, Edsel’s eldest son, Henry Ford II along with his brothers, Benson and William Clayford.

“Uncle Mac was instrumental in overseeing the assembly line and shared a story with me of how he helped another man, who was about to be fired, for being under the influence of alcohol while at work.”

I believe Uncle Mac’s sensitivity, and the understanding of brotherhood and camaraderie that was manifested while at war encouraged him to help. He knew this man to be an avid painter, so Uncle Mac presented him with a canvas, paints and brushes, took him aside and asked the man to paint him a picture. By the time the painting was completed, the man had straightened up and ended up keeping his job. Uncle Mac not only gained a friend but a painting that day. They became good friends and the gentleman did his job well at work and had great respect and admiration for my Uncle.

Uncle Mac occasionally visited our farm in Lambton County and would often share thoughts to me about the war. He explained that you didn’t want to get too close to anyone as a friend because you never knew, later in battle, that you may not see them again or you might be assigned for their burial duty. This happened to him on more than one occasion. He said he didn’t know which was worse, bullets flying by him or having to bury his buddies.

When he was wounded in battle, he told me of three German soldiers who carried him back to his regiment on a gurney they made out of blankets. The one German soldier gave him his luger pistol and told him (in broken English) to hold and keep it aimed at them so they wouldn’t be shot carrying him back to the Canadian trenches. He said that these particular German soldiers were happy to be captured because they were starving, cold and needed food and warmth more than fighting and to sustain themselves. Maybe because of experiences like this, that he had in the war, that he was able to provide a unique sensitive approach to help the gentleman the way he did that day on the assembly line.

Uncle Mac’s career at the Ford Motor Corporation at the River Rouge plant which at the time was the largest industrial city the world had ever seen. Uncle Mac was an enterprising adventurer and he was the first to test the Ford manufactured amphibian jeep vessel in the Rouge River in Dearborn, Michigan. These vessels were manufactured and used in World War II.

Upon retirement, Uncle Mac would often visit his relatives here in Lambton County and I was fortunate to have him demonstrate to me his sharp shooting skills with his Lee-Enfield rifle that he used in the war. He left me this rifle with photos and many delightful stories that I will always cherish and was privileged to hear.

Oh yes, he presented me with the painting from the gentleman that he received all those years ago that I told you about and the unique way he not only saved his job but probably, like an old soldier, saved his life.

Uncle Mac died in 1992 at the age of 94 and is buried in Farmington Hills, Michigan, close to where he worked and lived along beside his wife Marion who was my Grandmother’s sister.

 

~ Story told by Paul Smith.