Harry Deane MacDonald

Where Are They Now?

Harry MacDonald

Harry Deane MacDonald – The Ultimate Sacrifice

Can you remember what you did in your first year after graduating from York Memo?

For Memo grad Harry Deane MacDonald, the answer came easily…. go to war to stop Adolph Hitler and his German troops from attaining world domination. Harry was born in Toronto on November 16, 1919 to George and Violet MacDonald and the family set up their household in the Mt. Dennis area at Eglinton and Weston Road.

Like most boys of that era Harry’s interests centered around school and the many sports and social opportunities available at that time. He was a hard working and well-liked classmate and was remembered as a young man who had his goals squarely in his sights.

Harry enrolled at YMCI in the fall of 1933 – four years after the school had opened in 1929. A good student who participated in numerous activities his teachers remembered him as a hard worker who liked to help his fellow classmates whenever the opportunity arose. Harry graduated with his fellow classmates in June of 1938 and finding a place in the work force he then married the love of his life Margaret.

It would only be about one year later on September 1, 1939 when the Second World War would break out and Harry knew immediately, he wanted to be a part of the effort.

A year after applying to the Royal Canadian Air Force he was finally accepted on August 16, 1940 and after being issued his first uniform he was sent to the Manning Depot in Toronto for basic training. After the initial training was complete Harry was accepted into the Number 1 Initial Training School – the basic training school for air force recruits.

From there he graduated to the Elementary Flying School based in Cap-de – la – Madeleine in the province of Quebec where he was broken in on an aircraft called the “Fleet Finch”. For his final training Harry was promoted to the top Service Flight Training Centre at Camp Borden in Barrie, Ontario. It was during his time there that he trained on the much more advanced “Harvard” planes and on May 16, 1941 he graduated as a Sergeant Pilot

While most new graduates of the program remained in Canada as flight instructors for incoming classes Harry was immediately posted to his first war time stop in Britain – arriving there on July 17, 1941. While Harry had learned to fly on his various Canadian training stops, he still had much to learn about aerial gunnery, evasive tactics, formation flying and navigation - all under wartime conditions

After a brief stop with the No. 61 Operational Training unit in September of 1941 he was assigned first to the 54th Flying squadron and one month later settled in with the Royal Airforce 401 squadron based out of Kent, England. Harry’s first assignments included with sweeps over the north of France looking for enemy positions as well as making strikes against enemy shipping in the English Channel. On February 12, 1942 Harry engaged a German plane in his first mid air fight and his gunfire resulted in the enemy plane going down.

It was common for war time pilots to paint a message or picture on the side of their plane - usually depicting someone or something that held special meaning to the individual pilots. Harry chose the York Memorial CI crest and wording as seen in this picture.

Harry and Crest


On May 1, 1942 after having participated in several live aerial battles Harry was promoted to the rank of Pilot Officer and was posted with his old training squadron RAF 401 as a training instructor. Harry continued to fly missions mainly over northern France where they would destroy German construction projects, train tracks used to move German war supplies and even some German barracks. It was his aerial combat missions however that distinguished him from his cohorts

Beginning on January 20, 1943 Harry engaged in a string of missions leading to one on one aerial battles that were all deemed as “successful” including his first confirmed kill of an enemy pilot on March 8, 1943. During one memorable mission on April 4, 1943 Harry was single handily credited with three destroyed planes and three more severely damaged enemy aircraft.

A few weeks later in recognition of his bravery and prowess Harry was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant and during a three-day period covering May 13 to 15 he single handily shot down two German fighters and damaged two more. His bravery and valour did not go unnoticed and on June 4, 1943 Harry was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

His last victory in the sky would take place on July 15, 1943 when flying a patrol over northern France when his repeated attacking gunfire forced a pair of enemy planes to nosedive to the ground before exploding.It was to be his second last sortie having flown an astonishing 200 missions and arriving back home safely each time

On September 3, 1943 Harry was awarded an additional award bar for “Leadership and Gallantry”, It would be on his 201st and last mission – November 30, 1943 - that Harry was engaged above the English Channel – only this time he would not return to home base

His plane was shot down above the water and Harry was lost at sea – his final resting ground

Harry had made the “Ultimate Sacrifice” and along with millions of other soldiers paved the way for the freedom we all enjoy to this day. And on that plane that had became his final resting ground was the other love of his life – The YMCI crest


By Paul Lewicki