Lambton at War


The Second World War

Ross Borthwick

Ross Borthwick
Ross Borthwick

Ross Borthwick, “a Thedford boy,” had worked on our farm for two seasons. A free spirit and a good worker, he was well liked by everyone. Ross had joined the army in January of 1943 at age 19 and attended basic training at Ipperwash Army Camp. He was shipped overseas that same year.

Ross obtained the rank of Corporal in the spring of 1943, but was later “busted” back to Private in England due to arriving back at the base “a few hours later” after a leave.  Ross was transferred to the Essex Scottish Regiment on August 5th, 1943. He landed in France on July 6th, 1944, a month after the Invasion of Normandy, as a member of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.

Private Borthwick was a “runner” in his regiment.  He was killed in action of July 29th, 1944. On that day, the Essex Scottish Regiment “mounted a successful attack on buildings defended by experienced German troops near Tilly, France.” Ross had been cited for “distinguished Service during combat” by his commanding officer. He was reportedly killed by a German sniper.

Months later, his mother received a letter noting “outstanding good service and devotion to duty” and signed by Field Marshal Montgomery.  He is buried in Brettevile-sur-Laize Canadian Military Cemetery in France.

Story told by Dean Percy.

Malcolm Moncrief MacDonald

Malcolm Moncrief MacDonald, better known as Crieff, was born January 14, 1921 the only son of Dr. Marshall and Pearl (Ballard) MacDonald of Thedford, Ontario. He joined the RCAF in 1940 and trained in Goderich, Ontario, Commonwealth Flying School.

He left for Europe in 1941 and was stationed in Scotland.  His call of duty took him on flights from North Africa to Italy performing fighter cover and surveillance reconnaissance. He was warrant officer in an ammo dump in Italy.

His tour of duty ended in 1945 and he arrived in New York on the Queen Mary troop ship. A train ride from New York took him to Montreal to Gananoque Air Force Base where he waited for his discharge.

In 1946 he returned to his bride Grace (Lawson) and young son and followed some of his comrades at arms to medical school, UWO in London. After graduation he became Thedford’s beloved town physician, trailing the footsteps of his father.

His later years found him enjoying his garden, making wine, sailing and travelling.

After surviving the battles in the skies over Europe, in 1999 he began his own battle with cancer which unfortunately he lost in 2000.

Story submitted by Callum MacDonald, Strathroy, son of Malcolm MacDonald

Donald McKellar

Don McKellar was drafted in 1943.  Although he was given the option of requesting to be excused from active duty because he was needed on the farm, he elected to join the army as an active member of the armed forces.   He received his basic training at the Ipperwash Army Camp in 1943 and was shipped overseas that same year.

Private Don McKellar joined the Algonquin Regiment and we assume was shipped to France with that same division in July, 1944.

Private Donald McKellar was killed in action on August 9th 1944.  The Algonquin Regiment and the BC Rifles reportedly lost their way during a night time advance and were surrounded and decimated by the 88 guns of the German Panther and Tiger tanks.  McKellar is buried in the Bretteville — sur Laize cemetery.

Submitted by Dean Percy, Elora, neighbour of Donald McKellar

Robert Walden ‘Bob’ Bass

Robert Walden ‘Bob’ Bass was born in January 1918 in Thedford. He was the first born child of Jennie (nee Walden) and Preston Bass.

Robert Walden ‘Bob’ Bass

After excelling in his early schooling in Thedford, Bob attended the University Of Western Ontario at age 16 earning a degree in mathematics and physics in 1939. Following this, he entered teaching taking his first position at Rainy River High School, one of a staff of 4.

In 1943, Bob travelled to Fort Frances and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. After training stops in Winnipeg and Brandon Manitoba, Saskatoon and Prince Albert Saskatchewan, Belleville Ontario, St. John’s New Brunswick, Summerside Prince Edward Island, and Nassau Bahamas, bomber navigator and flight officer Bob Bass shipped out to England on August 3, 1944. In England, Bob was assigned to the 100 Group of the Royal Air Force, Bomber Command. Within 100 Group, he was attached to the newly formed 223 Squadron which was established on August 23, 1944. The operations of 223 Squadron were highly secretive as it was involved in RCM or electronic counter-measures, the jamming of enemy radio and radar signals in bombing raids over Europe. 223 Squadron flew Liberator bombers whose bomb bays were filled with state-of-the-art electronic jamming equipment. 223 Squadron bombers also flew as decoys to draw enemy fighters away from the main bomber streams. Bob flew 21 operational missions over various European targets and logged just over 133 hours of flight time. Following Victory in Europe Day in May 1945, Bob was slated for more mission time in the Pacific theatre but war in the Pacific ended while he was on his way back to Canada in August 1945.

Bob was discharged from the RCAF in September 1945. He went back to teaching, starting out in Barrie before moving to Windsor. Here, he was a secondary school mathematics and physics teacher, a department head, vice principal, principal, and superintendent. He also served in the RCAF Reserve in Windsor. In 1965, Bob became the first ever director of practice teaching at the newly founded faculty of education, Althouse College, at the University Of Western Ontario. He held this position for 10 years, retiring in 1975. Bob passed away in 2013, age 95.

Submitted in August 2019 by Bruce West, son-in-law of Bob Bass