Doc Macgown in WWI

Doc Macgown, ‘Mac’, the legendary Group Medical Officer with the Pathfinders, was in the RFC and the RAF during and after the First World War.

He was shot down on 7 July 1917. A family account gives the following details:

He was shot down over no man’s land. His plane crashed and he lay unconscious until nightfall, badly injured with two bullets through his chest. At night the troops on each side of the trenches would creep out to recover their dead and wounded. Unfortunately in Mac’s case, the enemy got to him first and he was taken prisoner and held at Holzminden. He was given medical treatment by the Germans and recovered.

On 5 August 1917, a month after his capture, he wrote from his prisoner of war camp to Miss MacGown, his sister, in Canada:

Still alive and getting along fine. Very fed up at being out of everything. A shell hit my machine at 3000 feet up and I hit the ground rather forcibly. It was rather funny when I was falling expecting to be an angel in the next few seconds. Suddenly I found myself on the ground with the machine piled up on the top of me and as I couldn’t feel any wings sprouting came to the conclusion that I was still in the land of the living. Cecil.


To continue the family memories:

At the first opportunity he escaped from Germany, making his way to Russia, where he was recaptured and sent back to Germany after the Revolution. He then escaped again and made his way, sleeping in fields and foraging for food, all the way to safety in Holland shortly before the end of the war.

By the Second World War he was an eminent Harley Street eye specialist. He volunteered for RAF service and became the Group Medical Officer at RAF Wyton.


Photographs and family memories with thanks to Clare Macgown.