Military Wiki
Thain Wendell MacDowell
Born (1890-09-16)September 16, 1890
Died March 27, 1960(1960-03-27) (aged 69)
Place of birth Lachute, Quebec
Place of death Nassau, Bahamas
Buried at Oakland Cemetery, Brockville
Allegiance Flag of Canada (1868–1921).svg Canada
Service/branch Canadian Expeditionary Force
Years of service 1914 - 1927
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit 38th Battalion, CEF
Battles/wars First World War
Awards Victoria Cross
Distinguished Service Order

Thain Wendell MacDowell, VC, DSO (September 16, 1890 – March 27, 1960), was a Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.


Thain Wendell MacDowell was born in Lachute, Quebec on 16 September 1890. His early days were spent in the Brockville area, where he was educated at Brockville Collegiate Institute. He later attended the University of Toronto, where he joined the Canadian Officer Training Corps as an Officer Cadet of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1914, he enlisted and was commissioned in the 38th (Ottawa) Canadian Infantry Battalion (now perpetuated as The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Duke of Edinburgh's Own)).

During service in France in 1916, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on the Somme, and the following year, promoted to Major, he won the Victoria Cross at Vimy Ridge on April 9.

Victoria Cross[]

One of four soldiers to earn the Victoria Cross in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, (the others were Ellis Wellwood Sifton, William Johnstone Milne and John George Pattison), MacDowell was 26 years old, and a captain in the 38th (Ottawa) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War when he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 9 April 1917 at Vimy Ridge, France, Captain MacDowell, with the assistance of two runners (company orderlies, Pvts. James T. Kobus and Arthur James Hay, both of whom were awarded the DCM for their part) reached the German position ahead of his company. After destroying one machine-gun nest he chased the crew from another. MacDowell then spotted one German going into a tunnel. At the base of the tunnel, MacDowell was able to bluff the Germans to think he was part of a much larger force, resulting in the surrendering of two German officers and 75 German soldiers. He sent the prisoners up out the tunnel in groups of 12 so that Kebus and Hay could take them back to the Canadian line. Seeing that he had been fooled, a German prisoner grabbed a rifle and tried to shoot one of the runners. The German was then shot and killed.

Although wounded in the hand, MacDowell continued for five days to hold the position gained, in spite of heavy shellfire, until eventually relieved by his battalion. He was promoted to the rank of Major following his actions at Vimy Ridge.

Later life[]

He later achieved the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel of the Frontenac Regiment from Napanee, Ontario. After the war, Colonel MacDowell served as an executive of several mining and chemical companies, and from 1923-1928 he acted as private secretary to the Minister of National Defence. He was placed on the retired list as a Lieutenant-Colonel.

In July 1929, he married Norah Jean Hodgson, of Montreal. He and his wife, first lived in Toronto, but moved to Montreal in 1931. He had two sons, Thain H, and Angus J, who still live in Montreal (2011). His wife died on November 1, 1983.

He died in Nassau, the Bahamas, on 28 March 1960. Colonel MacDowell is buried at Oakland Cemetery (R.R.3, Brockville, Ontario, Canada. Anglican Section 3. Lot 112) in the Richardson family plot. The grave is marked by a headstone.

Colonel MacDowell's Victoria Cross medal is on display at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario. There is a plaque in his honour on corner of Highway 2 and Church Street in Maitland, Ontario.


Grave of Thain Wendell MacDowell


  • "On the Battlefields", From the archives of "Maclean's Magazine", Edited by Michael Benedict, Penguin Canada, 2002 ISBN 0-14-301341-6, page 100

External links[]

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