Message in a bottle: the discovery of a young medical officer’s map from the 1917 Battle of Hill 70

Message in a bottle: the discovery of a young medical officer’s map from the 1917 Battle of Hill 70

Can J Surg 2018;61(5):302-304 | PDF | Appendix

Michael Kryshtalskyj, BSc; Jonathan Vance, PhD; Chryssa McAlister, MD

Summary

We report the serendipitous discovery of a map drawn by an army surgeon during the First World War. The map, entitled “Loos 36° NW3,'”was drawn by 24-year-old Captain Alexander Edward MacDonald in fall 1917 and was found in his old surgery textbook. MacDonald’s map depicts the positions of Canadian frontlines and medical units after the Battle of Hill 70. During the battle, Dr. MacDonald tended to the wounded in an aid post that he constructed in a ruined coal mine near the Front. MacDonald would go on to serve with distinction in the Battle of Passchendaele and Canada’s Hundred Days, and he received the Military Cross for gallantry. He maintained a passionate interest in cartography throughout his life and eventually became an authority among map collectors. Artifacts such as MacDonald’s map remind us of the realities of war and the sacrifices of our surgeon predecessors.


Accepted Aug. 20, 2018

Affiliations: Departments of Medicine (Kryshtalskyj) and Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences (McAlister), University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.; and Western University, London, Ont. (Vance).

Competing interests: None declared.

Contributors: All authors contributed substantially to the conception, writing and revision of this article and approved the final version for publication.

DOI: 10.1503/cjs.012318

Correspondence to: C. McAlister, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, University of Toronto, 340 College St, suite 400, Toronto ON M5T 3A9, chryssa.mcalister@utoronto.ca