Special man, special recognition
Museum exhibit pays tribute to MacDougall’s contribution in the Second World War
Gordon MacDougall’s contributions to the Canadian military will not go unnoticed.
His family has taken his medals, plaques and other important pieces of his service with the First Special Services and donated them to the Pictou County Military Museum.
“When Dad died, it was in his home and I was trustee for it so it was at my house and it was available to anyone,” said Gordon’s son, Allan MacDougall, who viewed the display at the museum with his four other siblings. “We decided the best thing would be to donate to the museum so everyone could appreciate another Pictonians efforts.”
Museum curator David Avery said MacDougall’s donation is one of kind for the museum because it does not have memorabilia from another First Special Forces member on display.
MacDougall was an adventurous 18-year-old who lied about his age to enroll with the Canadian military. In 1942, the elite First Special Forces team was formed and consisted of a combination of soldiers from the United States and Canada.
“They were commandos,” said Avery. “They are considered today to be the granddaddy or the forefathers of Special Forces, Green
Beret and Navy Seals. They were trained to be sent into dangerous places on extremely dangerous missions. “
Avery said the men were taught special skills, such as skiing by Norwegian instructors, parachuting, rock climbing, repelling and a lot of hand-to-hand special training as well as night patrols. They were named the Devil’s Brigade and their story was later made into a Hollywood movie starring William Holden.
“They ended up in Italy in World War Two in some really tough operations,” Avery said, pointing out a picture that showed MacDougall wounded during the Liberation of Rome.
Although they fought side by side on one team, Canadian soldiers received less money than Americans and when MacDougall was wounded, he didn’t receive a Purple Heart, like his American comrades. However, he was the recipient of a badge from
“They are considered today to be the granddaddy or the forefathers of Special Forces, Green Beret and Navy Seals. They were trained to be sent into dangerous places on extremely dangerous missions. “Museum curator David Avery
the United States recognizing he fought 30 days close combat with an enemy force.
Recognition would come later in life for MacDougall who received a Bronze Medallion from the United States Congress for his contributions in the brigade as well as a Legion of Honour medal from the French government for his service during the liberation of France.
The First Special Services was disbanded in 1944 and MacDougall returned home to Thorburn in 1945. Four days after his return to Pictou County, he started work in the McBain Coal Mine. He remained in Thorburn his entire life where he married and raised five children.
A photo of Gordon MacDougall of Thorburn holding the Bronze Medallion he received from the United States government. MacDougall recently passed away and his children decided to donate his medals to the Pictou County Military Museum.
Gordon MacDougall’s family recently donated his medals and other pieces of history associated with the time he served in the First Special Services to the Pictou County Military Museum. From left, Stephen MacDougall, Linda MacDougall, Toby MacDonald, Susan Hayman, museum curator David Avery and Allan MacDougall.