Angus H. MacDonald – WWII Trieste, Italy

Angus as known by his family or as a lot of you will remember him, “Big Gus the Bass Drummer” was born in Alderney the third largest inhabited of the Channel Islands, (It is only 3 square miles), on the 26th August 1926.

Growing up on Alderney was a world away from life in Glasgow.

The German occupation of the Channel Islands was nearing and Gus at the age of 13 was evacuated on Sunday 23 June 1940. They arrived on the South coast of England and were placed onto trains to be sent across Great Britain for a safer life.

Gus along with his family and the other islanders, approximately 1500, were originally being sent to London, but there was a mix up with the trains and they all ended up in Glasgow.

Arriving in Glasgow the refugees were sent to various places to be allocated a place to stay, Gus was sent to Whiteinch and Gordon Park Church Hall.

It was there that he was to meet one of his life long friends Tom McColl (The Secretary’s father). Tom said that he saw Gus wearing this unusual belt, it had a big shiny Alderney Crest on it and he asked Gus about it, they were friends ever since that moment.

Gus in BB uniform at 22 Verona Ave in Scotstoun, Glasgow.

Needless to say Gus joined the 214 BB and that’s where a great friendship was also formed with Willie McDonald.

‘The Three Amigos’ March 1943

Gus, Tom and Willie (The Three Amigos) were all members of the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) part of the Home Guard Civil Defence. (As described in Tom McColl’s article ‘The War in Japan Part 3‘)

After leaving the BB Gus much to the horror of his Father and Grandfather, joined the ‘Red Coats’ The Scots Guards. (Up to this point the family had been in the Royal Artillery)

On the 15 March 1945 he joined the Scots Guards and was sent to Caterham, Surrey. Where he joined the 1st Battalion on 19 March 1945 as Drummer 2704401

Gus in his 1st Batt Scots Guards uniform.

In May 1945 Gus was posted to Rossetti Barracks, Trieste in North East Italy.

Trieste in May 1945 was a chaotic city filled with cornered German, Croatian and Italian soldiers who continued to fight despite Italy’s capitulation in 1943.

The city was the focal point of a bitter territorial dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavs had hoped to strengthen their post-war claims to Trieste by being first to liberate it and then putting in place their own military administration.

The Western Allies, however, had planned that the city should come under Allied Military Government like other parts of liberated Italy, pending a final peace settlement.

For some weeks, Trieste was under an uneasy dual occupation. The problem was resolved diplomatically at the highest Allied levels, with the Yugoslavs reluctantly withdrawing from the city in mid-June.

Trieste Barracks 1945 – Gus is on the back row on the extreme right.

Gus enjoyed his time in Trieste, much of his time being spent on riot duty.

As well as being a drummer in the 1st Battalion Pipe Band, he was also a Battalion Buglar.

Gus at the Trieste Remembrance Garden May 1945

In October 1947 he was posted to Pirbright with duties in Chelsea Barracks, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London.

Gus’ Scots Guards badge
His Leave Pass – 1946

Although his family had returned to the Channel Islands at the end of the German occupation, on demob, Gus decided to remain in Glasgow.

Gordon Park had a lot to answer for, as it was through the church that he met his wife Grace via a friend Doreen Black. They were married by Rev Harry L Thomson in May 1951 and Tom McColl was their Best Man. They lived for a short time on Jersey where their daughter Grace was born in 1952. Living on a rural farm (and no doubt after just having a baby), had made Grace very homesick and later that year they decided to return to Glasgow.

On their return Grace took not well with TB and was hospitalised. Thankfully ‘Streptomycin’ had just been discovered as a wonder drug and she recovered. On her release from hospital they moved into their newly built house in Drumchapel, thereafter moving to Kingsway, closer to work and overlooked the Clyde from the 18th floor of their high rise flat.

Gus was Head Timekeeper at Charles Connell’s Shipyard in Scotstoun for many years and took no prisoners if a worker challenged his pay packet at the end of the week.

He played the Bass Drum in the Rutherglen Pipe Band, along with Alex MacIver and Willie McDonald as shown here at Cowal Games in 1972.

Gus was never a man for smiling in a photograph as can be seen here at the 2004 BB Reunion at the OTC in Glasgow University in 2004. The three Amigos are on the left Tom McColl, Gus McDonald and Willie McDonald.

Gus passed away on 7th April 2007 aged 80.

We would like to thank Gus’ daughter Grace for supplying the material for this post.