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Major-General Sir Hector Archibald Macdonald 1853-1903

(K.C.B., D.S.O., A.D.C., L.L.D.)
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Hector Macdonald, a crofter's son, began his military career as a private in the British army, and later became a Major General. Hector Macdonald fought in the Afghan war and both Boer wars. Distinguished himself when he saved the British army from total destruction at the Battle of Omdurman.

At the Battle of Omdurman Macdonald's brigade met the attacking Dervishes with heavy fire, Macdonald kept his troops well organized and disciplined, he continually maneuvered the lines to meet the ongoing threat of the attacking Dervishes.

"Amid the roar of the firing and the dust, smoke and confusion of the charge of front, the general [Macdonald] found time to summon the officers of IX Sudanese around him, rebuked them for having wheeled into line in anticipation of his order, and requested them to drill more steadily in brigade."- Winston Churchill

Before long other regiments began to arrive and backup Macdonald's lines, the firing upon the Dervishes was so intense that they began to retreat, fleeing into the desert. At the battles end 10,000 Dervishes lay dead, 16,000 wounded, and 5,000 prisoners. The battle was over the British army saved, the army lost 48 men and 382 wounded. At the end of the day, when the ammunition from Macdonald's brigades was counted, there were two rounds per man. The British army won the battle and avenged the death of General Gordon of Khartoum. Macdonald was the hero of the day and truly saved the British army.

Hector Archibald Macdonald’s tragic end came in 1903, from allegations and rumors of crimes that were unproven.
General Macdonald was sent to Ceylon as commander of the forces on the Island.
Macdonald was despised by the leaders in Ceylon who felt that they should not have to answer to someone of such "low breeding".

Dearest Mab, Do you really mean to say that, besides your-
self, three ladies (all up-country ones,,too) were the only
ones who went to see our new General arrive? ... Then,
dear, you know we heard a whispered rumour that he does not
like ladies, and possibly may have been pleasantly sur-
prised to find he had dropped on a spicy little Isle where
ladies were few and far between.

Times of Ceylon 1903

On a Sunday morning at the Hotel Regina in Paris, Hector came down from his room to the lobby to get the morning paper and sat down to breakfast. Macdonald opened the paper and was shocked at what he saw in the headlines "grave charge", a witness said a look of despair came across Hector’s face as he held his head low and stared at the paper. Hector got up and walked slowly up the stairs and entered his room, sat on the bed, raised the revolver to his head and shot himself.

The people of Ceylon had questioned his age, and that Hector was not married. In fact Hector was married and had a son, and the fact that Lord Kitchener did not allow his officers to marry, Hector kept his marriage a secret for years.

When Hector’s wife Christina Macdonald came to Paris to claim Hector’s body, the British government was stunned to learn that Macdonald had a wife and son. The government then offered Lady Macdonald a heroes funeral, Lady Macdonald basically said: no leave us alone.

The fact that Hector committed suicide, most would see it as a act of guilt. In fact Hector Macdonald was suffering from Dysentery, was in general poor health, and greatly depressed, his suicide might not of been a act of guilt, just poor judgment of a poorly beaten down man. A great Highland hero had been destroyed, and his accomplishments to the British Empire forgotten.


poor sir hector's suicide is a tragic response to the hypocracy of Ld.Roberts in not supporting the general in his hour of need even tho' he had done similar favours for othersbecause he came 'from the ranks'

poor sir hector's suicide is a tragic response to the hypocracy of Ld.Roberts in not supporting the general in his hour of need even tho' he had done similar favours for othersbecause he came 'from the ranks'

Agreed the whole sorry end to this hero leaves a nasty odour but in my limited reading I'm not sure why you blame "Bobs" - I think he just suggested he should go back to Ceylon and face the music.

MacDonald wrote a letter not to be opened till 2003. Anyone familiar with it and has it survived the years to be opened?

Accordng to http://pw1.netcom.com/~reincke/tragedy.html the letter still exists and has not been made public "because the material contained within was still too sensitive".


the bullet was suppose to have entered in an unnatuaral angle to the head.This may also so explain the secret burial in the wee late hours.No one from Dingwall were aloud to attend. My personal opinion is it was a set up by the rich tea growers of celyon because he tried to instill honesty and the corrupt english regiments

You might want to read Professor Denis Judd's (London Metropolitan University) chapter entitled "The Suicide of Sir Hector MacDonald" in Judd's book, "Empire: The British Imperial Experience from 1765 to Present." It discusses in depth the reasons behind MacDonald's suicide.

Sir Hector MacDonald is buried in the Dean (Western) Cemetery in Edinburgh

I visited his grave after reading the book " death before dishonor " , it is a very impressive obelisk about 25 feet tall and holding a beautiful bronze bust of sir hector , his wife and son are buried there also .........In the book it tells us that approx 70,000 thousand people followed the funeral procession from haymarket station in edinburgh ....out of total respect for this highland hero . RIP

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