]Major Donald Roderick McLaren – Canadian Ace 1893 / 1988
McLaren was born in Ottawa, but his family moved to Calgary in 1899, then on to Vancouver in 1911.In 1912 McLaren went to Montreal to study at McGill university. In 1914 illness forced him to abandon his studies and return home to Vancouver. After his recovery. McLaren, his Father and Brother opened a fur trading post at a remote spot on the Peace river. Whilst there McLaren learnt the language of the Cree Indians.
In 1916 his family gave up the trading post in order to help with the war effort. McLaren’s Father was not allowed to join the army so he got a job with the Munitions Board. His sons did enlist, Donald joining the Royal Flying Corps. He did his initial training at 90 Central Training School and then at Camp Borden in Ontario. and then finally receiving further training in England at No.43 Training School at Ternhill. He then transferred to No.34 Training School for final fighter orientation on the Bristol Fighter and Sopwith Camel, completing nine hours solo on the Camel.
On the 23rd of November 1917 he was sent to France where he joined No.46 Squadron. His first air combat was in February 1918, when McLaren successfully shot down a German fighter, out of control. He was awarded the Military Cross for a sortie on the 21st of March 1918 when he helped to destroy a railway gun with his bombs, then shot down a balloon and two German LVG two – seaters. In September 1918, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. When the Squadron Commander was killed in a crash, McLaren was given command of the Squadron.
In late October McLaren who had escaped injury in combat, broke his leg during a friendly wrestling match with one of his squadron mates. He was sent back to England on the 6th of November and was in hospital when the Armistice was announced. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for the way in which he ran the Squadron in the closing stages of the war.
McLaren finished the war with a Military Cross and bar, Distinguished Flying Cross, Distinguished Service Order, He was also awarded the French Legion of Honour and the Croix De Guerre. McLaren claimed 1 Aircraft shared captured, 5 and 1shared balloons destroyed, 15 and 6 shared Aircraft destroyed and 18 and 8 shared Aircraft out of control. This was despite the fact that his first dogfight wasn’t until February 1918, he scored all of his victories in a mere nine months. McLaren survived the war and lived to the grand old age of 95years.
(C) Damian Grange 2019