Peter McDonald was born in Tullamore, King’s County (now Offaly County), Ireland, on 28th May 1893 and was one of eight children to Michael and Mary McDonald. Michael had been in the army, and this seems to have been the route that Peter wanted to follow as well.
When he left school, however, he found work as a domestic servant at St Stanislaus College in his home town. War, by this time, was on the horizon, and so Peter was called on to other things.
Unfortunately, a lot of the documentation around Peter’s military service is no longer available. He enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps; while an exact date for his enrolment is not available, this would appear to have been at some point in the first year of the conflict.
Private McDonald was assigned to the 341st Mechanical Transport Company. This was formed in May 1915, and was designated an Ammunition Park (which was in essence a fleet of lorries and a workshop for maintaining them). While full details of his time with the RASC is not available, Peter certainly came to be based in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.
Considerable sensation was created at Weston-super-Mare on Friday evening, by a rumour which prevailed that a member of the Army Service Corps billeted in the town had been shot and another man wounded.
Inquiries revealed the fact that the rumour had some foundation, and it appears that some half-dozen members of the corps were attending their motor-bicycles in a shed at headquarters in Beach Road, when Lance Corporal Goldsmith produced an automatic Colt pistol, which he handed to Private McDonald for inspection.
In the course of the examination the weapon went off, and Goldsmith was shot in the leg. He at once took the revolved from McDonald, observing that he was unaware that it was loaded, and was apparently in the act of unloading it when it was again discharged, the bullet entering the lower part of McDonald’s abdomen, severing the main arteries.
Medical aid was at once procured. The unfortunate man died as the result of internal haemorrhage about an hour later.
Goldsmith was removed to hospital, but his injuries are not regarded as serious.Somerset Standard: Friday 28th January 1916
Private Peter McDonald has passed away from a gunshot wound at the age of just 20 years old. His body was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare, where he had met his fatal accident.
Private McDonald’s pension record gives his cause of death as ‘explosion’, something of a misinterpretation of the evening’s events.