As the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge approaches, many Canadians have been looking into their family histories for connections.

A man from Ottawa, Matthew Rankin started doing research into a relative who was killed in the battle, and came up with some interesting connections involving his great-grandfather's brother, originally from P.E.I.

His name was Lieutenant Michael Allan MacMillan, and Rankin searched the Library of Archives in Ottawa to learn more about his story.

si-william-macmillan

Michael MacMillan's older brother was William .J. P. MacMillan, who would become Premier of P.E.I. from 1933 - 1935. (http://www.gov.pe.ca)

"He was born in Clermont, P.E.I., in 1892, and he would move to Saskatchewan when he was a teenager, where he would enroll in the University of Saskatchewan," Rankin told Mainstreet's Angela Walker.

"His older brother was W.J. P. MacMillan, who would go on to become Premier of P.E.I. in the 1930s."

Michael MacMillan was highly regarded by students and faculty at the University, and was doing very well at school, but then he and a friend decided to put their studies on hold.

Close friends with John Diefenbaker,

"He was enrolled in law school, but he decided to answer the call to duty and enrolled in the Canadian military," said Rankin. "One of his close friends was John Diefenbaker, who would go on to become the thirteenth Prime Minister of Canada. So they, in August of 1916, enlisted together to go overseas. Not too long after enlisting, they moved over to Halifax, and were sent over to England, where they began officer training."

Diefenbaker Son 20110905

Future Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was friends with Michael MacMillan at the University of Saskatchewan, and they enlisted in the First World War on the same day. (Chuck Mitchell/CP)

Within months, Lieutenant MacMillan would see active duty.

"He was a member of the First Canadian Mounted Rifles. He would be sent over for the April 9 assault on Vimy Ridge, and he participated in the south-west storming of Vimy Ridge, where he was killed." said Rankin.

He was 24 when killed, which made MacMillan's sacrifice hit home for his great-grand-nephew.

"He was in a very successful position, and he decided to put that all aside to do what he felt he had to do for the country," said Rankin. "He's buried in Nine Elms Military Cemetery in Thelus, France. That's a cemetery for Vimy Ridge, there are about 700 Canadian soldiers that are buried there."

The anniversary of the start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge is April 9.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said the Nine Elms Military Cemetery is located in Toulouse, France. The cemetery is located in Thelus, France.
    Apr 08, 2017 8:53 AM AT
From the Mainstreet interview by Angela Walker